Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm

Reporter – News Analyst

New leather chairs for city commissioners
New leather chairs for city commissioners

The seats of power have gotten much more comfortable for city commissioners, charter officers and the public who attend meetings at City Hall.  For the first time since the mid-1990’s, Fernandina Beach City Commission Chambers have been refurbished with new carpeting and new chairs for commissioners and the public.  The total cost for these improvements:  $8,283,26.

New carpeting in City Hall
New carpeting in City Hall

After securing 4 bids, City Manager Joe Gerrity on June 27, 2013 authorized the purchase and installation of new carpeting from the Nassau Design Center, Inc. of Yulee at a cost of $2,940.19. On September 9, 2013 Gerrity authorized an additional $747.96 to install matching carpeting on the stairs.

New, more comfortable chairs for the public attending meetings at City Hall
New, more comfortable chairs for the public attending meetings at City Hall

The 80 new audience chairs, purchased from Sam’s Club, are described as Hercules extra wide stacking church chairs and were approved for purchase in the amount of $3,268.00 by City Manager Gerrity on September 12, 2013.

In response to at least two commissioner complaints, the city also upgraded commission chairs in the chamber.  Ten “leather mid-back conference table or office desk chairs” were purchased on e-Bay in June at a cost of $1,095.00.  Two additional chairs were purchased in June around the same time for $232.11 from Capital Office Products in Daytona Beach.

The last time major upgrades were done to City Hall dates back to the mid-1990’s when the fire station was moved to 14th Street and the former fire truck bays were converted to city commission chambers.   City Manager Zachary Zoul directed this project, which resulted in considerable controversy over cost of the conversion which was done in-house.  The carpeting and furniture installed and placed as part of that renovation have been in place until this recent upgrade effort.

Former audience chairs placed in commission chambers in mid 1990's
Former audience chairs placed in commission chambers in mid 1990’s

According to city officials, the commissioner chairs have been recycled in City Hall to other conference and planning areas, replacing chairs that were in worse condition.  Many audience chairs have failed over the years.  Those remaining have been offered to city departments.

Some in the community have questioned the timing of these upgrades, coming as they have following city funding cuts for local non-profit social service agencies, personnel cuts and collective bargaining talks with the city’s two unions.


September 27, 2013 12:26 p.m.

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tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_15999)
9 years ago

There isn’t much to say that would make any sense on this one.

Denise (@guest_16001)
9 years ago

This speaks volumes. Clearly comfort is far more important than helping the needy in our community.

Mary (@guest_16002)
9 years ago

The executive chairs that were replaced needed it as the arms were very wobbly and because of the way they were made, you could not tighten the arms. As for the audience chairs, they needed replacing for several years. The seats were made of cardboard and covered with material. Several had already broken and they were becoming dangerous for the citizens to sit in. The old chairs were an accident waiting to happen, therefore approximately $4,595.11 was very reasonable. (A lot more economical than most City/County Commission Chambers). After all they were purchased around 1994 and were approximately 19 years old. The new chairs were needed and should last for many years to come. A great addition to the City Commission Chambers for the citizens and City Commission.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_16006)
9 years ago

Although I understand the comments about the expenditure from the perspective of where other cuts were made, Mary’s comments are quite true. In addition to the chair failures, the existing carpet had gotten wavy from its 20 years of repeated cleaning and was becoming a trip hazard. Last thing anyone would want is for a citizen, visitor or official getting injured due to the deteriorating condition of the chairs and carpet.

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_16017)
9 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott

From what I have been reading those chairs for the most part are still being used by others. We can reason out anything to make it sound like a good idea. There are times when after all the reasoning is done, it could still be a bad idea.
It just makes no sense in my opinion, and it’s only my opinion, that this was a good idea at this present time. I learned too late in life perception is reality. This just doesn’t appear to be a good example of practicing what you preach. The good thing about situations like this is it really doesn’t matter what you or I think. It will be the voters that will have to decide issues such as these come election day.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_16019)
9 years ago
Reply to  tony crawford

I fully understand your position and agree that the timing and overall appearance is bad. Although the audience chairs won’t get the usage in other areas like they did in the Chambers, there certainly wasn’t likely to be a widespread failure, especially given the sparse audience attendance at the budget meetings. Comparing almost any city expenditure to the cutting off of funds for social services will seem cold and heartless.

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_16021)
9 years ago

Good points. Well taken. Always good to talk issues with you.

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