City commission approves electric franchise fee increase to balance the budget and moves forward with storm water

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City Commission regular meeting September 18

Susan Hardee Steger

Last night’s city commission meeting gave the appearance of one big happy family, as opposed to the “Family Feud” exhibited at the last regular meeting.  (Click here for story on September 4 meeting.)

Prior to the regular meeting on September 18, the special meeting that approved the fiscal year 2012 – 2013 budget and 10.36% increase in the operating millage, received little public input and limited discussion from city commissioners.

Unlike the previous commission meeting when emotions ran high, the amended electric franchise agreement was presented and  no discussion took place among the commissioners.  Even though Mayor Filkoff was forced to pass the gavel to second the motion, the motion passed 3 – 2.  Pelican, who opposed the increase on first reading, voted yes along with Bunch and Filkoff.   Corbett, who supported the budget based on franchise fee increases, voted no.  Poynter who was vocal in his opposition to the proposed budget also voted no.

A representative from John T. Ferreira and Son provided the commission with an overview of insurance costs.  The city was able to negotiate favorable rates with insurance carrier thanks to positive comments from the insurance company’s lost control representative who commended the city and staff for having one of the strongest safety cultures around, who were open to new ideas, and who were eager to reduce claims.

Presented in the consent agenda was an agreement to extend the existing agreement with FDOT for the Alachua Street opening. Commission Pelican prior to her vote against the extension expressed opposition to opening Alachua because Centre Street traffic capacity was at 36%.   Despite her opposition, the  resolution passed on a 4 – 1 vote.

A joint participation agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation involving tree clearing mitigation received unanimous support.  The airport will receive a grant award of $220,000 with a city share of $55.000 to begin the tree clearing project. This project  includes resoding, replanting low growth trees, and fencing.  Only trees on city property will be trimmed or removed.  Most trees to be removed are pine.  The project is expected to begin in 60 days and completed within 30 – 60 days.  The tree clearing project is due to FAA concerns over  landing and takeoff conditions because of  tree height. City Manager Gerrity offered commissioners and citizens the opportunity to review plans, and/or visit the airport for an overview.

In an effort to begin costly storm water projects, a storm water ordinance to create a storm water utility fund and establish a fee system was passed on first reading. Customers will be charged a monthly fee ranging  from $1 up to $4 depending upon class.  According to John Mandrick, utilities director up to $13,000 per month could be received.  With money collected in the  storm water fund, the city will be eligible for matching grants.   One project high on the list for completion is North Fletcher near Lisa Avenue.  (The Fernandina Observer will present further information on the storm water fee in a future post.)  Commissioner Poynter discussed jump starting storm water projects by  borrowing funds at what are now historically low rates and using fees collected to support the debt obligation.

A master fee schedule which includes impact fees, was unanimously approved  The annual fee schedule sets rates for a range of items and services charged for park and rec programs, golf course, marina, airport, cemetery, police and fire, sanitation, water and wastewater.

The Pay Classification Plan established yearly by the commission was presented with a request from city manager Joe Gerrity to increase the salary range of a new classification position of Administrative Service Manager to a range of $45,018 to $70,903. The pay classification plan was approved 4 -1 with Commissioner Bunch dissenting.  No reason was given for the negative vote.

Closing comments by city manager Joe Gerrity indicate only one applicant is currently interested in overseeing a city farmers’ market since a former applicant withdrew his name from consideration.  Joe and Elizabeth Lee’s Amelia Island Market Place is being run on a weekly special events permit.  Commission Poynter asked for  a presentation by the Lees or other interested parties to educate the community and commission on their vision and plans for the market.

September 19, 2012 9:32 a.m.


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