Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) spent an hour in a work session devoted to the next budgets for the Airport and the Utilities Department immediately prior to their July 30, 2013 Special Meeting to set a tentative millage rate.
City Manager Joe Gerrity, acting as Airport Manager, spent the first 20 minutes presenting the Airport’s proposed budget, characterizing it as similar to the current year’s budget and “not very exciting except for two grants.” In response to questions from Commissioner Pat Gass, Gerrity said that there would be no raises, but that $10,000 would be transferred from airport funds to pay his salary. Comptroller Patti Clifford reported that advances from the city’s General Fund to the airport have been paid back with 4% interest, but that there are two notes, from 1996 and 2007, still not paid off. When Commissioner Ed Boner questioned why the city was not paying them off at this point, Gerrity responded that the airport needs to have $250K on hand for grant matches.
Commissioner Arlene Filkoff asked if the city’s grants strategy was in line with the Airport Layout Plan (ALP) and Master Plan or if the city was pursuing grants for projects just because grant money was available. Gerrity replied that all but three were directly related to the ALP. “If the grants don’t come in,” he said, “we won’t do the projects.” Projects identified for funding would begin in 2013, with completion anticipated by mid-2014. Projects were identified in a memo dated July 30 2013 from Andrew Halesko, project manager, Passero Associates, the city’s airport consultant:
- Hangar A Apron Rehabilitation (and Jamestown Road Site Planning). Addresses the deteriorated condition of city-owned Hangar AQ aircraft parking apron, plus feasibility study for a section of Jamestown Road becoming a part of the airport access road system. Cost: $156,250
- East Area Apron. Conduct overall site planning, layout, ground access and aircraft parking plan for East Area followed by physical development of the east aircraft parking area (Phase 1). Cost: $150,000
- North Apron Rehabilitation at current Fixed Base Operation (FBO), plus Row Hangars. Addresses the deteriorated condition of specific sections of the north aircraft-parking apron, near/within the current McGill lease area. Cost: $506,250.
- Taxiway B and E Lighting. Replace Taxiway B edge lighting and install new edge lighting on Taxiway E (Phase 1), request funding for Taxiway E (Phase 2) construction. Cost: $1,026,736.
Gerrity informed the FBCC that he anticipated that the ALP would begin next year and lead to a Master Plan update in FY2014-15.
City Utilities Department Director John Mandrick briefed the FBCC on the current and future plans for his department, which provides potable water, wastewater and stormwater service to city residents. From 2004 through the end of the current fiscal year, this enterprise fund will have transferred $4,828,907 to the city’s General Fund. Mandrick also informed the FBCC that whereas in 2003 the state was on the verge of issuing a consent order because of the state of wastewater treatment, today the city has turned the corner and is favorably viewed around the state.
Large projects planned for next year include extending water mains on Clinch Drive, Fir and Date Streets. He also announced plans to install a gravity system in Old Town, replacing the current expensive and problematic waste treatment system that relies on grinders. This project will cost about $400,000. He will continue the ongoing gravity reline work, work on system laterals and the phased replacement of water meters.
In response to a question from Commissioner Pat Gass, Mandrick replied that he has no plans to aggressively pursue those homes not connected to the city’s sewer system, but that he estimates only about a dozen residences fall into that category.
Mandrick also explained that through better stormwater management he is trying to reduce the load on the city’s wastewater treatment facilities, which also results in lower electricity bills for the city. His department has installed one-way check valves downtown to keep the area from flooding at high tide.
Mandrick told commissioners that a rate study is underway and that the results will come back to the FBCC when new rates are proposed for the next fiscal year. Commissioner Arlene Filkoff cautioned Mandrick that the citizens need to understand that his department’s goal is to achieve savings by working more efficiently as opposed to raising rates. She and Mandrick agreed that revenue and savings are being used to pay back debt incurred with the purchase of the water system from Florida Public Utilities.
City Manager Gerrity informed commissioners that the Utilities Department must maintain reserves to cover potential disasters. In the event of mass evacuation, people are not allowed to return home unless electricity, water and sewer are operational.
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.
August 1, 2013 3:49 p.m.