Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
At their second Regular Meeting of the month on July 15, 2014, Fernandina Beach City Commissioners (FBCC) handled a relatively light, non-controversial agenda. The 4-item Consent Agenda was passed unanimously with no discussion. Likewise, 7 Resolutions passed unanimously with little discussion except for Resolution 2014-97 dealing with possible legal action in connection with prematurely failing roads within the Isle de Mai subdivision. Five ordinances dealing with land use and land development code changes were passed unanimously on second and final reading with little or no FBCC discussion. Only one member of the public rose to ask a question about one of the ordinances during quasi judicial public hearings.
Horses on city beaches
During Public Input, Fletcher Avenue resident Ray Price rose to complain about the conduct and consequences of bad behavior by businesses that rent horses on city beaches. He reported that not all the vendors are licensed by the city and that city ordinances governing both hours of operation and requirements to clean up after the horses are not being consistently followed. He said that the horses defecate and urinate in tidal pools, where children often play. At high tide, the horses and beach goers jointly occupy a narrow stretch of beach, creating a dangerous, unhealthy situation for both the horses and people.
Price commended the Fernandina Beach Police Department (FBPD) for their quick response to complaint calls, but said that he believed the officers probably had better uses for their time. He added that when people complain, they are routinely intimidated, harassed and treated to verbal abuse from the vendors.
Price reported that he has observed horse handlers “clean-up” efforts that have included throwing waste into the ocean, leading horses into tidal pools or the ocean to relieve themselves and worst of all, having a dog with a rope around its neck drag a clean-up cart along the beach behind the horses. Price said that such a situation hardly presents an image of the community that tourists should see.
City Commissioners expressed surprise, but City Manager Joe Gerrity explained that the city has been trying to work with the vendors to get them all licensed and to follow the ordinance requirements. The vendors are supposed to clean up after their animals and not dispose of waste by burying it in the sand or throwing it in the ocean.
FBPD Chief James Hurley also addressed the commissioners, advising them that under the current ordinance, horses are allowed on the beach between Sadler Road and Peters Point. He reiterated that officers respond to complaints involving confrontations between horse owners and beach goers. He has made repeated attempts to contact horse owners, educate them on the need for permits and the ordinance requirements to operate such a business on city beaches.
City Manager Gerrity said that the horse rentals are an on-going problem and that the vendors “push and push and push” against the city. He said that perhaps time has come to revisit the ordinance governing this activity.
In response to a question from Commissioner Charlie Corbett, Hurley said that currently there are five permitted vendors, and each vendor may rent out 3-8 horses.
Commissioner Johnny Miller suggested that perhaps the enabling ordinance should be repealed.
It was the consensus of the commissioners to place the matter on the agenda of the next regular meeting for further discussion.
City Attorney Tammi Bach requested and received permission via unanimous approval of Resolution 2014-97 to pursue claims against any and all responsible parties for design and installation of prematurely failing roads within the Isle de Mai subdivision. On or about August 5, 2004, the city accepted roads within the Isle de Mai subdivision through approval of a final plat. On or about May 1, 2014, the City discovered that Spanish Way East and Spanish Way West, public roads within the subdivision, are prematurely failing due to being designed and constructed in a negligent manner, causing the roads to be saturated with ground water which compromises the integrity and functionality of the roads. The city estimates that the cost to the City to reconstruct these roads may exceed $200K. According to the staff report, the City has the option of reconstructing the roads and not pursuing legal action. But city staff believes that engineers, contractors and the subdivision developers are responsible for the premature road failures. Bach told commissioners that the city needed to pursue legal action by August 4 to avoid any claims being time barred by statute of limitations. Bach also indicated that there was some litigation going on within the subdivision.
Isle de Mai resident Janet Dunnegan rose to thank the FBCC for taking action. She reported that she goes on regular walks throughout the subdivision and has observed the situation worsening.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the City Attorney’s request to pursue legal action.
Ordinances approved unanimously on second and final reading
Ordinances 2014-09 and 2014-11, both following from the recent annexation of the parcel known as the Gateway Complex, changed county land use and zoning designations to city designations. Local resident Joan Bean asked whether the ordinance changed land use or impacted wetlands. City Attorney Tammi Bach assured Bean that the ordinances were routine with annexations and were unrelated to wetlands. When Bean questioned the effect of the law suit filed by the property owners opposing annexation, Bach replied that at the current time the property has been annexed into the city, so city codes and regulations apply.
Ordinance 2014-19 assigned a zoning category of Conservation (CON) to 14.53 acres located on Ocean Avenue between Dolphin Street and East 9th Street. In error the parcels had been zoned R-2, (medium density residential), when the underlying Future Land use designation reflected Conservation. Most of the land in question consisted of substandard lots and unbuildable lots.
Ordinance 2014-20 amended the Land Development Code to add a new use for craft distillery and small-scale wineries and breweries.
Ordinance 2014-21 amended the Land Development Code by adding revisions for hospital supplemental standards. The changes allow for hospital height of 60 feet and off site signage. The modifications were recommended in anticipation of the annexation into the city of Baptist Hospital Nassau. The changes will accommodate existing approved development of the hospital and reflect development requirements in use in Nassau County.
The FBCC unanimously approved the reappointments of Sam Lane and David Dully to serve additional 3-year terms on the Airport Advisory Commission.
City Manager Gerrity reported that he had received a letter from the Federal Aviation Authority expressing satisfaction over the city’s handling of a Chapter 13 complaint. Gerrity said that the city continues to work on addressing the matters. He also reported that commissioners should be receiving budget books next week in anticipation of upcoming budget workshops.
Vice Mayor Sarah Pelican reported on the successful July 4th fireworks. She said that Community First Credit Union has signed on as a fireworks sponsor, pledging $5,000 per year for five years. She thanked all who contributed to the successful show. Commissioner Charlie Corbett joined her in praising this year’s fireworks display, which lasted longer than usual. He added that there was a good turnout at city activities the entire day.
Commissioner Pat Gass again commended 8th Street business owners that have assumed responsibility for maintaining state and/or city rights-of way in front of their businesses. She said that if all businesses agreed to do so, the city would be well on its way to improving the appearance of the 8th Street entrance to the city.
Commissioner Johnny Miller renewed his concern addressed at the June 24 Budget Workshop, asking his fellow commissioners if the city can afford to keep a municipal golf course. He reported that he had been working with Gerrity on gathering some information and asked for a special meeting to be convened to discuss the future of the golf course. Corbett jumped in, reminding commissioners that the BCG management contract still has two years to run. It was the consensus of the FBCC to hold a special meeting on the topic, and Gerrity agreed to set something up.
Mayor Ed Boner reported on the continuing success of the Friends of the Library’s fundraising campaign, which has them very close to meeting their goal.
The meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.
Items not on the agenda, still unresolved
While many city watchers expected to see signs of a settlement agreement over the impact fee lawsuit, that was not to be. There had been a flurry of special meetings and Executive Sessions over the last few weeks dealing with the bond validation case and class action appeal. One of those meetings preceded the Regular Meeting, but no move was made to expand the agenda on an emergency basis to take action.
There was no further discussion of accepting the time-sensitive offer of $50K from Billy Casper Golf (BCG) in return for a 5-year management contract extension. During the FY2014/15 Budget Workshop held on June 24, 2014, BCG expressed its commitment to partnering with the city to ensure Fernandina the long-term success of the municipal golf course. To that end, BCG expressed a willingness to contribute $50,000 toward renovation of the West Course greens to begin no later than August 15, 2014. They believe that this would increase revenue potential heading into the fall and winter seasons. Their offer is contingent upon extending the city’s management contract with BCG for an additional five years. City Manager Joe Gerrity reminded commissioners that it is highly unusual for a management company to offer to invest in a client’s facility, since that is the client’s responsibility. It remains to be seen whether the FBCC will pursue this potential agreement or ignore it, thereby leaving BCG’s current contract in place for its remaining 2 years. Gerrity said that he would meet with BCG representatives. There remains only one regular meeting for the FBCC to take action to accept BCG’s offer if planting is to be done by the last effective date.
There was no report on the status of the contract with the second airport fixed base operation, 8 Flags Aviation.
There was also no update or discussion over the status of MLK Center bathroom renovation and expansion. Vice Mayor Sarah Pelican raised this matter at the July 1, 2014 FBCC meeting. At that time City Manager Gerrity reported that the contractor had indicated that $15K over the bid amount authorized was needed to do the job.
According to City Attorney Bach, there has been no action toward resolving the dispute with Rock Tenn over the gate on Estrada Street. Old Town resident Michael Harrison rose during public input to ask for a status report. Bach informed him that as soon as the press of other work allows, she will send a letter to Rock Tenn’s attorney to state the city’s position.
Other items passed unanimously at July 15, 2013 Regular FBCC Meeting identified by Agenda number:
5.1 APPROVAL OF MINUTES – Special Meeting – June 26, 2014; Special Meeting – July 1, 2014; Regular Meeting – July 1, 2014.
5.2 LEASE AGREEMENT – BOY SCOUT TROOP 89, INC. – RESOLUTION 2014-88 APPROVING A 20-YEAR LEASE AGREEMENT WITH BOY SCOUT TROOP 89, INC. FOR THE PROPERTY LOCATED AT CENTRAL PARK; PROVIDING FOR EXECUTION; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves the 20-year Lease Agreement between the City of Fernandina Beach and Boy Scout Troop 89, Inc. for their use of the property located at Central Park.
5.3 AGREEMENT EXTENSION – CERES ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC. – RESOLUTION 2014-89 APPROVING THE EXTENSION OF THE EXISTING CONTRACT WITH CERES ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES, INC. FOR A PERIOD OF THREE (3) ONE (1) YEAR EXTENSIONS FOR DISASTER RECOVERY AND DEBRIS REMOVAL SERVICES; AUTHORIZING EXECUTION; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves the extended contract with Ceres Environmental Services, Inc. to be the City’s primary provider of disaster recovery and debris removal services for an additional three (3) one (1) year extensions.
5.4 DEMONSTRATION OF ONGOING SUPPORT – NASSAU COUNTY SHORE PROTECTION PROJECT – RESOLUTION 2014-90 REQUIRED BY THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION’S (FDEP) DIVISION OF WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, TO DEMONSTRATE ONGOING SUPPORT FOR THE NASSAU COUNTY SHORE PROTECTION PROJECT BY AGREEING TO CONTINUE SERVING AS THE LOCAL SPONSOR, TO PROVIDE THE LOCAL COST SHARE, AND TO IDENTIFY THE SOURCE OF THE LOCAL COST SHARE; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Agrees to provide continuing support for the Nassau County Shore Protection project, to continue serving as the local sponsor of the project, and to provide the local cost share.
7.1 BUDGET AMENDMENTS – FIRE / POLICE / CITY CLERK – RESOLUTION 2014-91 APPROVING AMENDMENTS TO THE BUDGET FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 2013-2014; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves the transfer of funds within the Fire Department, Police Department, and City Clerk’s Office budget for FY 2013/2014 due to higher than anticipated costs.
7.2 BUDGET AMENDMENT – GOLF COURSE – RESOLUTION 2014-92 APPROVING AN AMENDMENT TO THE BUDGET FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 2013-2014; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves the transfer of funds from the General Fund to the Golf Course for FY 2013/2014 due to lower than anticipated revenues.
7.3 PURCHASE APPROVAL – TRANE OF JACKSONVILLE / BUDGET AMENDMENTS – GOLF COURSE – RESOLUTION 2014-93 APPROVING THE PURCHASE AND INSTALLATION OF AN AIR CONDITIONER SYSTEM FROM TRANE OF JACKSONVILLE IN AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED $36,950; APPROVE TWO BUDGET TRANSFERS; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Authorizes the purchase of a replacement air conditioner system from Trane of Jacksonville in an amount not to exceed $36,950 in accordance with the Duval County Public Schools purchase agreement DCPS RFP N. 03-12/LG – HVAC Maintenance Contract (piggybacking) along with 2 budget transfers.
7.4 SOLE SOURCE PURCHASE APPROVAL – ETR, LLC – RESOLUTION 2014-94 APPROVING PURCHASES THAT WILL EXCEED $20,000 FOR FISCAL YEAR 2013/2014 FROM ETR, LLC; APPROVING ETR, LLC AS A SOLE SOURCE PROVIDER; AUTHORIZING EXECUTION; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves ETR, LLC as a sole source vendor for the purchase of parts and services for Fire equipment in excess of $20,000 in FY 2013/2014.
7.5 TASK ORDER #2014-01 – OLSEN ASSOCIATES, INC. – RESOLUTION 2014-95 APPROVING TASK ORDER #2014-01 WITH OLSEN ASSOCIATES, INC. IN THE AMOUNT OF $30,000 FOR THE NASSAU COUNTY SHORE PROTECTION PROJECT; AUTHORIZING EXECUTION; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves Task Order #2014-01 with Olsen Associates, Inc. for Coastal Engineering Services for Beach Management.
*7.6 SOLE SOURCE PURCHASE APPROVAL – EXCEPTIONAL ROOFING – RESOLUTION 2014-96 APPROVING PURCHASES THAT WILL EXCEED $20,000 FOR FISCAL YEAR 2013/2014 FROM EXCEPTIONAL ROOFING; APPROVING EXCEPTIONAL ROOFING AS A SOLE SOURCE PROVIDER FOR ROOF REPAIRS TO HANGARS A AND B FOR FY 2013/2014; AUTHORIZING EXECUTION; AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE. Synopsis: Approves Exceptional Roofing as a sole source vendor for roof repair services to Airport Hangars A and B in excess of $20,000 in FY 2013/2014.