Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News AnalystSeptember 3, 2014 10:39 a.m.
In barely a half hour the Fernandina Beach City Commission disposed of its September 2, 2014 Regular Meeting agenda, along with public and commissioner comments. The nature of the business could best be characterized as end of fiscal year housekeeping matters: awarding bids for construction materials used in the Utilities and Streets Department and street signage. The FBCC also unanimously approved resolutions to pay communications surcharges (Resolution 2014-118), continue contracting with the firm of Jacobs Scholz & Associates, LLC, for lobbying services in FY 2014-15 (Resolution 2014-120), award four Community Development Block Grant applicants (Resolution 2014-121), and reappoint CRAAB Member Marla McDaniel to a second term on that board. The FBCC approved Resolution 2014-119, approving eight budget amendments for the current fiscal year, thereby increasing the total city budget from $98,684,500 to $98,802,500. The Sanitation and Marina budget amendments account for the $118,000 budget increase.
Constitution Week Proclamation
Fernandina Beach Mayor Ed Boner proclaimed the week of September 17-24, 2014 as “Constitution Week.” Boner noted that September 17, 2014 will mark the 227th anniversary of the drafting of the U.S. Constitution by the Continental Congress. He asked citizens to reaffirm the ideals of the Framers of the Constitution. Ms. Marie Santry, Regent of the Amelia Island Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, accepted the Proclamation and delivered prepared remarks citing historical background to the process of drafting and adopting the Constitution. She reinforced the importance of exercising the right to vote.
Local resident Lynn Williams rose to express his opposition to the proposed charter referendum which asks voters to extend city commissioner terms from three to four years. He expressed surprise that the FBCC had changed an earlier position on this matter. He said that such a change will only save the city $13-14,000 every two years, which breaks down to 1.5 cents per week per city voter. He expressed his concern that three candidates, running as a block, could raise a lot of money for a combined campaign and bring about major change for a four-year term. He suggested that it would be more beneficial to get rid of the current 2 consecutive term limit on commissioners. By allowing commissioners to serve 9 or 12 consecutive years he opined that there would be greater continuity in government because of the experience gained over multiple terms.
Group 2 City Commission Candidate Roy G. Smith, Jr. rose to ask the FBCC if commissioners were aware that the Port of Fernandina is seeking permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to revise its air permit. Such action would allow the port to receive coal and offload it onto trucks, thereby increasing the amount of coal dust in the air. He reported that comments were due to FDEP by Wednesday, September 10. Neither Commissioners nor the City Manager claimed any knowledge of the Port request. Smith claimed that if there were no objections, FDEP would issue the permit. Mayor Boner thanked Smith for bringing this to the commission’s attention and said that the city would investigate.
Election Campaign Signs
Commissioner Pat Gass reminded candidates and their supporters that campaign signs are not allowed in the city rights-of-way. She cited state and city regulations and code governing the display of electioneering signs, adding that the size of signs on residential property is also limited. She said, “If we all start by knowing the laws, we will be spared tacky signs.”
Main Beach Water Slide
In response to a question from Commissioner Charlie Corbett, City Comptroller Patti Clifford reported that the city’s share of revenue from the Main Beach water slide this past summer season was $5,000. The operator has expressed satisfaction with his first season and looks forward to resuming operation next summer. City Manager Joe Gerrity replied to a question from Roy G. Smith, Jr., saying that it was almost impossible to assess fees for water usage to the slide operator, but that the slide’s water use was minimal.