Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 2, 2020
The City of Fernandina Beach will soon have a new marina operator. On a 5-0 vote at their September 1, 2020 Regular Meeting, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) decided to part ways with Westrec, the company that has been managing the municipal marina for the past decade, and begin negotiations with Oasis Marinas to take over marina management and operations.
City Manager Dale Martin will formally notify Westrec by letter today, thereby providing Westrec with the required 90-day notice of intent to cancel its contract.
The FBCC’s decision followed a recommendation from the 4-person Marina RFP Evaluation Committee (MREC). The Marina Advisory Board (MAB), which heard twice from the MREC, declined to accept the MREC’s evaluation and maintained its position that Westrec should be allowed one year of operation following completion of marina repairs prior to consideration of replacing their services.
No spokesman for the MAB attended the FBCC meeting to advocate for their members’ position; no member of the public spoke for or against the change of operators. Representatives from both Westrec and Oasis Marinas were in attendance, but did not speak.
The MREC recommendation included language that would permit the City Manager and the City Attorney to enter into negotiations with the second-placed firm, Founders 3, if negotiations with Oasis are not successful.
At the end of the FBCC meeting, Mayor John Miller thanked Westrec for the company’s years of service and for making varous improvements during that time.
The City advertised Request for Proposal #2020-02 for Managing and/or Leasing Marina Facilities in March of this year. Five proposals were received on April 30, 2020: Coastal Marina Management, Founders 3 Management, Mobius Marina Management, Oasis Marinas, and Safe Harbor Marinas. Additionally, the current management company Westrec, was provided the opportunity to review the submissions and offer a proposal.
Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. was contracted to provide a Financial Review of Marina Management Proposals by evaluating and ranking the proposals to assist in the determination of which proposal best suited the financial interests of the City. The Stantec report ranked the Oasis Marinas proposal in the best interests of the City.
All proposals, the Westrec response, and the Stantec report were presented to the Marina Advisory Board (MAB) for consideration at the MAB June 22 meeting. Prior to the meeting, and based upon the Stantec review, preliminary discussions were conducted with Oasis Marinas officials, and an invitation to introduce themselves at the June 22 Marina Advisory Board meeting was extended. Westrec officials declined to participate at the June 22 MAB meeting. The MAB, in general, reiterated support for a previous endorsement to allow Westrec to operate for an entire year with a fully functioning facility.
All of the proposals were projections of revenues and expenses: none of the management teams offered guarantees of the revenues or projections. The Stantec review was intended to provide a comparison of the projected information as presented by each management team. Following that review, as indicated, Stantec, which had closely examined the Marina financials as part of an earlier project, ranked the Oasis Marinas proposal as being in the best financial interests of the City.
Additional discussions were conducted with references and others familiar with Oasis Marinas operations. One local resident, with previous time in Annapolis and familiar with Oasis Marinas operations, offered support for Oasis Marinas, specifically stating, “I am currently a slipholder at FHM and resident of Fernandina Beach, but am from Annapolis. I’ve stayed at several Oasis Marinas over the years and am aware of the quality service you all provide. Would like to see Oasis manage FHM and plan to encourage our city commissioners to that effect. If there’s anything I can do for you on the ground here, please let me know.”
Following the City Commission Regular Meeting on July 21, 2020, the Marina RFP Evaluation Committee was formed. This Committee consisted of City Attorney Tammi Bach, Comptroller Pauline Testagrose, Airport Director Nathan Coyle, and Marina Advisory Board Member Coleman Langshaw. Meetings were held on August 6 and August 13. Oasis was ranked number one and Founders 3 number two by the Evaluation Committee. The Evaluation Committee recommended that the City negotiate a contract with Oasis, and if such contract cannot be negotiated, the City should negotiate with Founders 3.
At the August 24 Marina Advisory Board meeting, the Marina Advisory Board recommended that Westrec Marinas be retained as the Marina management firm for a period of one year following the final completion of Marina repairs including the availability of fuel.