By Dale Martin
July 30, 2021
With much recent attention devoted to the preparation of next year’s budget, it is an appropriate time to offer updates on key projects.
FEMA arbitration– The City, through counsel, filed its Request for Arbitration with the United States Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) on July 16. The filing document can be viewed on the City’s website and its Facebook page. Subsequently, the “docketed” the Request on July 19, assigning a docket number (CBCA 7167-FEMA) and three judges (Judges Allan H. Goodman [chair], Kathleen J. O’Rourke, and Kyle Chadwick) to the arbitration panel.
An initial conference among City’s counsel, the Florida Department of Emergency Management, and FEMA was conducted earlier this week. FEMA’s response to the City’s filing is due no later than August 16, and another conference is scheduled for August 24 to discuss further proceedings. The docketing and conference documents are also available on the City’s website and Facebook page.
Waterfront resiliency– The City published an invitation to bid (ITB 2021-06) in early May for interested contractors. For reference, when the City publishes an ITB, a Request for Proposals (RFP), or Request for Qualifications (RFQ), those postings are not only often in local or area newspapers, but they are also published on the internet through a procurement site (DemandStar). This means that the City makes it known regionally, nationally, and internationally that products and/or services are desired and the information related to the procurement opportunity is readily available.
One contractor, Thomas May Construction, submitted a bid in the amount of approximately $2.4 million. The City Commission, on July 20, awarded the contract for the project to Thomas May. Funding for the project is available through local funds, State grants, and the Federal American Rescue Plan.
A final element of design, a required railing along a portion of the boardwalk, must return to the Historic District Council for final approval, but construction of the resiliency components, the boardwalk (which will actually be concrete, not wood, since it will serve the additional function of a seawall), and the petanque courts will begin in August. The intent is to have the components completed sufficiently to host the November petanque tournament. Due to funding conditions, the project must be completed no later than March, 2022.
Atlantic Seafood- Another current issue at the Amelia River waterfront involves Atlantic Seafood. Based on several recent email messages that include erroneous information, it is necessary to clarify many pertinent points of the current discussions between the owner of Atlantic Seafood and the City. First, the City has an existing lease with the owner (approved through City Commission Resolution 2008-71. Although the lease has provisions for the City to terminate the lease (through the use of eminent domain if the City Commission wishes to head down that path again), the City cannot unilaterally discard the lease and solicit new offers for the site. The current lease expires in 2028, but the lease does include provisions for renewing the lease (at the sole discretion of the City Commission, “which shall not be unreasonably withheld”).
The lease also includes the following specific provisions in Section 30: “Tenant shall only be permitted to construct the same square footage of the Demised Premsies to be removed to accommodate the new boardwalk. In the event that additional land, space, or square footage is required by the Tenant to accommodate the replacement of the Demised Premises and/or add additional services to the business, the parties shall renegotiate this lease.”
Additional facts regarding the Atlantic Seafood discussion are that my conversations with the owner of Atlantic Seafood have stretched back years regarding the future and eventual transition of that business. Those discussions have been exceptionally pleasant and professional with Ms. Anne Coonrod. She is obviously an astute businesswoman and desires to favorably exercise the terms of the lease. Although she has requested more land (as authorized by the aforementioned Section of the lease), neither she, nor anyone else has requested or presented a concept for a 9,000 square foot building (fake news is much closer than Washington, Atlanta, and New York). No revised lease has been presented to or approved by the City Commission: staff, in accordance with the terms of the current lease (“the parties shall renegotiate this lease”), is seeking direction from the City Commission as to an initial offer of terms for a new lease. Once that direction is provided (likely at Tuesday evening’s meeting), staff will continue (or terminate) discussions with Ms. Coonrod.
Alachua Street re-opening– The City finally received the signed documents from the Railroad related to the re-opening of Alachua Street (the City approved the documents in early June). The way is now cleared, after at least fifteen years of effort, to restore this corridor to the waterfront and enhance the redevelopment of several properties in that area. Thank you to Mr. Jacob Smith (who has represented the interests of the City), the Florida Department of Transportation, and the Genesee & Wyoming (First Coast Railroad) for their patience and support.