Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
About twenty people attended the second regular September Fernandina Beach Commission (FBCC) meeting, the FBCC’s third and final public meeting of September 17, 2013. The meeting lasted just short of an hour. The two items generating the most discussion and public interest were the city’s insurance renewal, which will yield savings due to dramatically lowered Workers’ Comp claims and the award of Bid #13-05 to Marand Builders for the renovation and expansion of the Fernandina Beach branch library. All commissioners were in attendance, and the return of Vice Mayor Charlie Corbett from his annual vacation seemed to lighten the mood of commissioners as they proceeded through a relatively uncontroversial agenda.
Insurance renewal – Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust (Resolution 2013-127)
Shaun Woleshin of John T. Ferreira Insurance appeared before the FBCC to respond to questions or concerns regarding renewal of the city’s annual insurance with Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust (PGIT). The policy, set for renewal on October 1, 2013, covers city property, general liability, workers’ comp, law enforcement liability, public officials’ liability and automobile liability and physical damage. Other policies dealing with more specific operations and activities were also authorized for renewal via this resolution.
Woleshin was extremely positive about the trend in city insurance claims. He said that the four-year history of claims shows an annual expense of $275K, but that with less than two weeks to go in the current fiscal year, claims have dropped to $23K. He said that the city has saved $60K for deductibles this year, and that all claims this year have been only to cover medical expenses, with no time lost from work. He expressed his belief that as a result, next year’s insurance costs will drop considerably. He thanked City Manager Joe Gerrity, City Attorney Tammi Bach, and the city’s Human Resources and Finance departments for changing the culture of the city and helping effect such profound and positive change. City Manager Gerrity echoed Woleshin’s praise for city staff, stressing the importance of the work of city’s Safety Committee, which is composed of city employees. Gerrity mentioned the impact of the sign at 8th & Lime Streets touting the number of days without accident in the city. Commissioners added their thanks to those of Gerrity and Woleshin and passed the resolution unanimously.
Award of Bid 13-05 to Marand Builders, Inc. for library branch renovation and expansion
Before an audience comprised primarily of library supporters, the city moved the long-discussed library project forward by unanimously authorizing the city manager to negotiate a contract with the project low bidder for an amount not to exceed $1,430,977. Marand Builders, Inc. was the lowest of nine bids received and was also the builder recommended by project architect Stephen F. Lazar of VRL Architects. The highest bid received came from the only local firm to respond. Chism Development of Fernandina Beach bid the project at $2,003,086.88.
Gerrity reminded commissioners that the city must enter into agreements with both the Board of Nassau County Commissioners and the Friends of the Library (FOL) before work can proceed.
Currently, the city has in its account $469K, the remainder of its promised share of $600K minus architects fees already expended on the project. While Nassau County has not transferred funds to the city, it is on record as committing an additional $600K to the project. The Friends of the Library, who have been engaged in an aggressive and successful private fundraising campaign on behalf of the library project, have guaranteed the remaining amount needed to complete the project –approximately $392K.
Gerrity explained to commissioners that he was recommending holding off on bid alternatives to replace windows and replace the river rock sidewalk sections within the project area in order to maintain a $38K contingency fund.
Commissioners asked questions regarding bid draws and change orders. Gerrity reminded them that after details are worked out and reduced to mutually acceptable agreements with both the county and the FOL, the final agreement would come back to the FBCC for final approval.
Commissioner Arlene Filkoff moved the approval of resolution 2013-128 awarding the bid to Marand Builders, and Commissioner Pat Gass seconded the motion, which went on to pass unanimously. The audience erupted in applause as the vote was recorded.
The FBCC voted unanimously to appoint local architect Randy Rice to succeed engineer Asa Gillette, who resigned from the CRA Advisory Board citing press of work. Similarly, they voted unanimously to appoint Old Town resident Michael Harrison to Vacant Alternate #2 position on the Historic District Council. Suanne Thamm, who currently serves on the Historic District Council, declined to seek reappointment following the completion of her current term this month.
Municipal airport report
In his role of interim airport manager, City Manager Joe Gerrity reported that the Airport Advisory Committee (AAC) has unanimously supported the construction of the Black Pearl Hangar. He informed commissioners that as a result of a complaint filed with the FAA by former AAC member Mickey Baity regarding diversion of revenue from the airport, he may need to use money from other accounts to assemble the information required to respond to the complaint. He indicated that the airport is experiencing an annual income of $541K, expenses of $293K and debt service of $118K. The cash flow of $129K does not include a full time airport manager in the coming budget. When asked if he felt that he could handle both jobs, he replied affirmatively, adding that he did not want to hire a manager “until this nonsense is over.” When asked to elaborate on that statement, he demurred.
During commissioner reports Commissioner Gass asked about the status of the golf course problem, a reference to previous discussions concerning post employment golf course fees paid by former city manager Michael Czymbor and former fire chief Chuck Bogle. City Attorney Bach deferred to Gerrity who advised that a representative of Billy Casper would be contacting each commissioner individually to discuss the matter. Gass continued to press for an investigation, claiming that as a result of reading the former city manager’s separation agreement, she felt that the city might be entitled to reclaim even more money.
Commissioner Ed Boner updated commissioners on his efforts to promote local action that would forbid or restrict sales of synthetic drugs in convenience stores and other small retail operations. He has modeled a draft ordinance on one enacted in Pasco County and has asked commissioners and the city attorney for review and input.
The meeting adjourned at 6:54 p.m.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.
September 18, 2013 2:41 p.m.