Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
February 5, 2015 7:45 p.m.


Renovation of the original Fernandina Beach Branch Library is now underway.
Renovation of the original Fernandina Beach Branch Library is now underway.

Commissioner Robin Lentz added the final discussion item to the agenda for the February 3, 2015 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC). She explained to commissioners that as part of the remodel of the existing city building housing the Fernandina Branch of the Nassau County Library, the architects and planners had not provided for replacement of the existing tile ceiling and overhead lighting fixtures. City Manager Gerrity said that the change order to replace the items in the main room would cost approximately $58K, and to extend the replacement to all portions of the original structure, the cost would rise to $74K. After considerable discussion, heated at times, the FBCC approved spending $35K to split the cost of the change order with the Friends of the Library. Only Commissioner Pat Gass opposed the motion.

DSCN4094Lentz explained that the original cost for the renovation and expansion of the building was $1.8M, but because of costs that amount was trimmed back to $1.6M. When the previous commission demanded that the roof be replaced as part of the project, the architect removed the plan to lower the ceilings in the original structure to save money. Lentz said that many of the ceiling tiles have sustained water damage because the roof leaked, the lighting is so old that replacement parts cannot be made, the Plexiglas covers are no longer made. When the ceiling was originally built, the grid for tiles was customized. The tiles to fit these grids are no longer made so replacements cannot be purchased. Originally the planners had been led to believe that the tiles could be replaced and the lighting fixed, but that is no longer possible. The Friends of the Library (FOL) have offered to meet the city halfway on the cost.

DSCN4071 - Version 3Lentz said, “I know that Commissioner Gass will say that the FOL offered to pay for any change orders …”

Commissioner Pat Gass interrupted saying, “Amen.”

“I know that,” Lentz said. “But I also know that this is [the city’s] building. We want to be proud of it. We own it. It’s nice of the FOL to even agree to pay for half. So I’m hoping that you will move forward to support this. … Maybe we could pledge $35K from the sale of the city property on South Fletcher to support this. The other great thing about changing the lighting is that the building would become more energy efficient. I think right now there are 95 fixtures in the ceiling, and those would be reduced to 40.”

Ceiling tile in original portion of library building
Ceiling tile in original portion of library building

Lentz asked Bill Flynn, FOL President, to step forward to talk more about the lights. He talked about the toxic PVCs in the original lights. He also explained how the size of the ceiling grids and tiles has changed. “One of the things I thought we gave up from the original plan,” he said, “was lowering the ceiling. But when we replaced the roof, that improved the R rating from 2-4 up to the high 30’s. But what I didn’t realize was that nothing would be done to the ceiling at all. I just didn’t pick up on that.”

Lentz moved to approve funding half of the larger project, and Commissioner Tim Poynter quickly seconded her motion.

Original light fixtures that cannot be repaired; fixture covers are no longer available.
Original light fixtures that cannot be repaired; fixture covers are no longer available.

Commissioner Pat Gass said, “I’ll be more than happy to share how I feel. First of all, it was not the commission that wanted the roof instead of the ceiling. Those changes were agreed upon by the FOL. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was to sit here and try to communicate the fact that if you have a budget of $1.6M to build something, it is best not to take the offer that builds it all the way up to the line. Because there are bound to be change orders.”

Turning to Flynn, she added, “But we were assured there would not be. Every time we tried to suggest we tweak something, cut something back … no, no, no. ‘The committee had looked at it. This is what we have to have.’ A room full of people with [FOL] bags around their necks, standing outside … ‘This is what we must have. Nothing else. Don’t change it.’ I was the only one who voted against it. They got what they wanted. Read it—it’s in writing a contract—it says if there are any changes, they will pay for it. Because we said that we, the citizens, only have $600K. By the way, by the time that $600 is paid back it will actually be $689K of tax dollars or impact fees. When you sign a contract, you make a deal and you stick with it. We tried to warn them; they didn’t want to listen. Not at all. Come on in, everybody: sign a contract with the city, we don’t expect you to stay with it. How much money do they have, because they assured us they would have plenty and that they would have a line for a loan to cover all this. Do you have any answers to those [questions?]”

Lentz said, “I was here, Commissioner Gass, and I heard all this. But I have also been involved with projects where you hit road bumps.”

“Exactly,” an irritated Gass interjected. “That’s why you plan for those things.”

Lentz said, “They are a group of volunteers.”

Gass continued her disagreement. “That’s not how they presented it. They presented themselves as highly intelligent, well-educated professionals, which is why we should have listened to them. That’s what we were told,” she said as she turned and gestured toward Flynn.

DSCN3944Commissioner Tim Poynter said that he has been involved in a lot of construction projects and it doesn’t really matter how you plan for things, because stuff happens. “At the end of the day it is our building. If you have been over there and seen how nice it will be for the community … I think the estimate was $480,000 originally for the city to fix what needed to be fixed without adding anything to the existing footprint. For an additional $120K, the city gets a $1.6M building. I would hate to walk into, in effect, a new building and see stained ceiling tiles, when $1.6M has been spent on that building. I think it is incumbent on the city to spend the money, since it is their asset. As far as the FOL, for what they have done for this community, I think we should absolutely support this.” He turned toward Gass and said, “I know you absolutely disagree with me on this, and I’m good with that, too.”

City Manager Joe Gerrity said, “I absolutely must stand up for city staff …”

Poynter interrupted, “You were the project manager.”

Gerrity continued, “… and VRL architects and Moran Builders. Without this ceiling issue, this project would absolutely come in on budget.”

Gass said, “Good. If we didn’t do the change order.”

Gerrity continued, “I expressed some concern when we did the initial contract. It’s phenomenal to go into a remodel of an old building and bring it in on budget like that. Again, it’s not relevant to this discussion, but it is important to note.”

Gass continued to dispute the time frame for completion with the added scope of work. “And that’s not going to slow us down one day? Not One?”

Lentz said that one of the things holding up work right now is the decision on the ceiling. The contractor does not want to install the new carpet if the old ceiling is to be torn down.

FOL President attempts to address Commissioner Gass' concerns.
FOL President attempts to address Commissioner Gass’ concerns.

Gass turned her questioning to Flynn. “Mr. Flynn,” she said, “you said you would pay for this. How much money have you got?” She repeated her question with more emphasis and hand gestures. “You said you would have more than enough to do it. Not half of it—all of it.”

Mayor Boner interrupted Flynn, who was trying to explain that this was a maintenance issue. “Mr. Flynn, I want to apologize,” he said. “That came across as rude.”

Flynn returned to the podium and brushed off the Mayor’s concerns. “This is somewhat like a couple of years ago when we reopened talks to replace the roof. That made sense when you were redoing the building. The same thing with replacing the windows on 4th Street. They could have stayed there, but it makes sense to do some of these things when the building is being ripped up. I look upon doing the ceiling as the same type of future maintenance avoidance.”

Gass said, “I agree but what about our contract that we legally signed?”

Mayor Boner sat uncomfortably through the exchange between Gass and Flynn.
Mayor Boner sat uncomfortably through the exchange between Gass and Flynn.

Flynn agreed but added, “It also says we get the opportunity to discuss change orders and we agree to pay half.”

Gass disagreed with Flynn’s interpretation, saying that FOL agreed to pay anything beyond the city’s $600K commitment. “You said you would have it covered and you signed a legal document stating that.”

An increasingly uncomfortable Mayor Boner attempted to end the discussion by thanking Flynn, but Gass said, He hasn’t answered the question as to how much money he’s got and what about the contract?”

Boner said, “I think it is up to us to decide if we want to support the request.”

In response to Gass’ continued demand, Boner invited Flynn to return to answer her questions.

“Well,” Flynn said, “we put $400K into escrow, and that money is being drawn down. There is still money in that account.”

“Great,” said Gass.

“We’ve put out money to move books, and we’ve done that, and we have some money left,” Flynn explained.

"That's fine."
“That’s fine.”

Gass asked, “Then why not money for [the issue before the commission]?”

“Because we think this is preventive maintenance,” Flynn said, “and it falls along the same theory as the roof and the windows.”

“Did you see that clause in the contract about change orders?” Gass asked.

“If that doesn’t get done, nothing will get done,” Flynn replied.

“That’s fine,” Gass said.

When the vote was taken, all commissioners except Gass voted to spend the $35K as the city’s half of the cost to replace the old ceiling and overhead light fixtures.

Mayor Boner thanked Bill Flynn and the Friends of the Library for their selfless contribution to the community and all that they do.”

Gass said with a chuckle, “Let’s sign another contract.”

Boner quickly retorted, “If I could sign a contract every year with people like the FOL, I would.”

Gass said, “Then you should meet the Humane Society.”

Gerrity informed commissioners that he planned to take the money from the contingency fund, but that the fund would be replenished with money from the sale of the South Fletcher property.

Boner added, “By the way the consolidation of [police] dispatch with the county will save almost a million dollars the first year. … I think with saving money like this you can spend a couple of a dollars on a building that needs a new ceiling.”

“Don’t forget to vote for Bill Leeper for Sheriff,” Gass continued. “Because if he is no longer sheriff, we have to go out and buy new equipment [for return of dispatch to the city].”

After more than 15 minutes of discussion the Mayor moved on to another item.

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tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_27927)
7 years ago

I saw this whole exchange on the streaming site. It wasn’t easy to watch. In fact it was painful. We were in a situation with a change order and who’s responsibility it is to pay it. The fact is, at the end of the day it would be downright ridiculous not to include the new ceiling and light upgrades. It was obvious all during the initial discussion concerning the remodeling of the library, there was much discussion about what was needed, what type of roof was to be applied, and how it was to be funded. The whole process to get this project off the ground was like pulling teeth from a worm. The point to keep in mind is simple. It is our building, we own it, we also own the responsibility to maintain it, which frankly we hadn’t. Enter the FOL. These folks headed by Bill Flynn comes to the City and want to help. They go out and raise about $400,000. I am not sure, but I would guess that is the largest amount ever raised to fund such a project by private citizens. These guys beat on doors, held events, begged, borrowed, and might have stole from the grand kids piggy bank to raise this money. Why, did they want a proclamation thanking them, if they did, they sure got short changed as that was voted down. I am betting they did this work because the library stands as a pillar of knowledge and learning for all of us and most importantly our youth. It is a center of community involvement as well as an example of pride for our City. All that being said we were at point where for whatever reason something got screwed up and we are in need of a change order for $73,000. Do we really want to hold the FOL feet to the fire after what they have done for the City? They have agreed to compromise and split the difference. Compromise seems to be a nasty word these days. So the City has to kick in the balance, but in the very end who is really making out on this deal? The City has a bigger, updated ,and modern state of the art library for about 1/3 the going cost. Not to shabby.
The other problem here is what message are we sending out to other organizations who may want to tackle local problems such as the FOL did. Think about it, are they going to get a warm fuzzy feeling dealing with the City? We have to remember the FOL are our friends, they could just as easy be renamed the FOC, Friends of the City for what they have done for all of us. We need to send a clear message out that we are in support of such groups and make them feel we are a City that will encourage their contributions to help improve whatever venture they are involved in. We are indebted to Bill and all his volunteers who spent so many hours to fight the fight to make this a reality. Thank you FOL

Gayle Rybicki
Gayle Rybicki(@gqrybickiyahoo-com)
7 years ago

Hear, hear! Well said!!

mikespino (@guest_27945)
7 years ago

I had hoped the removal of two city commissioners would change the tone and bring civility back to our public discussion. Apparently we have more work to do.

John Campbell Elwell
John Campbell Elwell(@elwelljohnyahoo-com)
7 years ago

Well said Tony. Bill Flynn and his team of volunteers need to be commended for their efforts over the last several years not brow beaten by a City Commissioner. The citizens of this City are the winners with this updated Library, in spite of two past City Commissioners who refused to support the project until they attempted to get re-elected. The fact of the matter is that the ceiling needs replacing due to past lack of maintenance not because it wasn’t factored into the project. The FOL is again coming to the rescue by pledging to pay for one half of the expense. KUDOS to Bill and his Team.

Andrew Curtin
Andrew Curtin(@bkdriverajcgmail-com)
7 years ago

OK,now I get it.Adjusting the terms of a contract based on emotions,oversights or poor planning is acceptable.Maybe I’ll try that on my mortgage holder.
The FOL agreed to pay for cost overruns.This is a cost overrun.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_28000)
7 years ago

Andy, contract terms get changed all the time, especially in the construction business. You can go to your mortage holder and request a refinance whenever that makes sense. In this case, one of the parties requested a modification to the terms of the contract (FOL) and the other party (the City Commission by majority vote) agreed to the change. All in all, it will be an improvement that will enhance the appearance of the library and, I think, meet the expectations of the overall community.

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_28004)
7 years ago

Dave, your right with respect to contract negotiations. What concerns me is simple. What message are we sending out to other potential groups that at some point want to do help raise funds for other projects in conjunction with the City? If holding the FOL feet to the fire is the the example we set that would be a clear and loud message to others that we are not a friendly City to work with. It’s a classic example of the need to look at the big picture. To be honest I would say that the FOL have worked longer hours, and has had a greater interest in this project from the start than the City. It really is their baby from start to finish, and for that we should be more than grateful. Is $ 35,000 really worth it when compared to the time and effort these volunteers put into this project.? The City will only gain from their efforts once it is completed? I know one of the things that most volunteers cherish more than anything is simple appreciation. Appreciation for the time, and effort they have given, the obstacles they had to overcome, and the time away from family spent to see their goals met. Simply put, for us to say—— thank you

Mary Ann Howat
Mary Ann Howat (@guest_28018)
7 years ago

The library is very important. It is just common sense to build it right or repair it now so it can become better than new. Refurbishing and renovating make great use of what we already have. I hope we citizens will open our pocketbooks and contribute $$ to this most worthy cause so there will be money for chairs, tables, etc. I fondly remember my library days, and all I got from being around the books and the energy in the library. To a youngster, our library must be such a place.

Len Kreger
Len Kreger (@guest_28020)
7 years ago

When you take a project design and “value engineer” (reduce the scope) and then fail to put an appropriate industry recommended contingency fund, you can pretty much insure you will have problems. With the change orders there is always a concern that the cost is appropriate, as there is no competition. Hopefully the City is reviewing changes orders against recommended material and labor costs.

I personally could never understand why we didn’t look to relocating the library to a location which is more centrally located for residents at a much lower cost.

Andrew Curtin
Andrew Curtin(@bkdriverajcgmail-com)
7 years ago

First you modify the contract so you can effect the desired changes.In this case, the Library proponents are whining about not having the money to make a necessary change.wanting the City to spend more than its contractual share,while declining to abide by their contractual agreement to cover cost over runs.BTW,don’t throw in this claim of “preventive maintenance’.
Andrew Curtin

P.S.Right on,Len.Too bad it’s too late.

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_28031)
7 years ago

Andy, Len, sort of agree on you both in part with the location issue. I actually suggested a new location. One thought was the new empty building on Sadler. I was met with—- the present location was needed as a draw for downtown business. Not really sure how many go to the library than eat lunch or go shopping. Than it was the fact it was a convent location for many students to get to. This made a lot of sense as one of the main functions is to make resources available to our youth. The answer that convinced me however that it should stay in the same spot was just simple old common sense. It is “our ” building. It was in disrepair, we had a bunch of volunteers ( the FOL ) who were willing to pay about 1/3 of the cost. We also had the country willing to pay 1/3 of the cost. This was a great business decision by the City. We got a new, larger building for about 1/3 the cost. We also don’t have another empty space to look at downtown. It is easy for all of us to Monday morning quarter back this. The facts still remain. There is an over run, it’s going to cost the taxpayers an extra 35k but at the end of the day we will have accomplished quite a feat. We will have a new building, a new and much improved library, and have allowed a bunch of volunteers to get involved and help pay for it. Lately as a City we are reaching out for groups and individuals to help fund various projects. This is not a good example of a good working relationship between the City and volunteer groups. It may just be showing others that it is just not worth getting involved.

Mrs. D Hunter
Mrs. D Hunter (@guest_28060)
7 years ago

Tony Crawford: “I saw this whole exchange on the streaming site.”

Mr. Crawford, or anyone with the knowledge, how can I access the “streaming site” you’re talking about?

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_28064)
7 years ago
Reply to  Mrs. D Hunter

Mrs Hunter.
go to—- That City’s web site
go to E Service –( middle of page )
go to Streaming Video ( left side of page )
go to City Commission Feb 3rd– hit play
go to Item # 9

Hope it helps and looking forward to your input, thanks

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_28070)
7 years ago

Andy, maybe you were referring to someone else as I never used the phrase “preventive maintenance” although the City at this building and other facilities have done a poor job over the years with such. I fully understand that when funds are short you have to try to get things to last a little longer, but it eventually proves the old ad, “pay me now or pay me much more later”.
As to location, while there was the principle of keeping it downtown, a number of other sites were evaluated by Comm. Jeffrey Bunch and County Commissioner Danny Leeper. In the final analysis, expanding and remodeling the existing building was the best alternative.

Mrs. D Hunter
Mrs. D Hunter (@guest_28072)
7 years ago

Mr. Crawford, I can’t thank you enough. Your instructions were clear enough for this old lady to sail through your steps to the “painful” exchange itself. Looking forward to viewing many, many more of these meetings.

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_28080)
7 years ago

Mrs Hunter, You are more than welcome. Thank You

Andrew Curtin
Andrew Curtin(@bkdriverajcgmail-com)
7 years ago

That’s what Flynn said

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