Fernandina Beach City Commission Rings in New Year 2013

Submitted by
Suanne Z. Thamm – Reporter-News AnalystCity Hall 3

The Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) started off 2013 at its first regular meeting on Wednesday, January 2.    The Reverend Ed Coop of Joy Ministries Church preceded his invocation with a call to the people of Fernandina Beach to unite behind the new commission and to provide them support as they deal with important matters of business in the year ahead.

No members of the public asked to speak on any items not on the agenda, so the FBCC moved quickly to resolutions, some of which generated discussion:

  • Resolution 2013-01, approving the purchase of seven vehicles for the city fleet, six for the Police Department and one for the Water Department, for a total cost of $184,161.  City Manager Joe Gerrity explained that the action had been anticipated in the FY 2013 Budget and that the vehicles being replaced were 5-10 years old with mileage readings ranging from 85,000 to 128,000.  He added that the costs for the police vehicles would be paid from federal forfeiture funds and the utility vehicle would be paid for from enterprise funds.  The city would piggyback on a Florida Sheriff’s Contract to take advantage of favorable pricing.  Commissioner Pat Gass asked if the city had tried to purchase locally.  Jeremiah Glisson, the city’s fleet manager, indicated that past efforts to do so revealed that local dealers could not better the state price.  She asked that Glisson keep trying in the future to make sure that the state price could not be met or bettered locally.   The resolution passed unanimously.
  • Resolution 2013-2, approving the purchase and sale agreement with First Coast Moving and Storage Company for Airport property in the amount of $100,000.  Commissioner Ed Boner disagreed with the appraisal report for this property and the proposed sale price.  He claimed that the property had been improved and had a building on it.  He believed that the property had a market value of at least $300,000.  City Manager Gerrity disagreed, saying that the metal building on the property had been erected by the lessee and that its value was negligible. He reminded commissioners that the potential owner had a valid lease for this property and that potential lease payments also had to be considered along with the purchase price.  Gerrity said that he was comfortable with the appraisal.  Steve Stubbs, the President of First Coast Moving and Storage and the potential purchaser, reminded commissioners that he had already paid $60,000 in lease payments and that he had paid for the building on the property.  Commissioner Gass turned to Commissioner Boner and asked, “Should we ask him to pay for his own building?”  When the vote was taken, only Boner opposed the sale.
  • Resolution 2013-3, authorizing the City Attorney and the City Manager to utilize the services of David C. Miller, Esquire and the law firm of Bryant, Miller and Olive, P.A., in an amount not to exceed $20,000.  The expertise of this firm will be solicited to evaluate and potentially reform the city’s pension plan.  The resolution passed unanimously.
  • Resolution 2013-4, approving change order #1 for the downtown comfort station project and transferring $5,500 from the Animal Rescue Center account to pay for the change.  The increase in cost resulted from the city Building Official’s ruling that a floodgate needed to be installed in order to issue a Building Permit.  Commissioner Gass asked a series of questions relating to the need for the change, saying that $4,900 is a lot of money to account for.  The project architect, who was not in attendance, had  claimed that there was no need for a floodgate.  City Manager Gerrity said that the city has no option but to rely on the advice of the Building Official in interpretation of state law, despite the fact that architects and/or builders might have different interpretations.  Because the Building Official is a state official, even the City Manager cannot overrule him in his interpretations.  Gass went on to question approximately an apparent $500 discrepancy in the proposed fund transfer, requesting that in the future all details be more clearly spelled out.  Mayor Pelican asked Gerrity to explain how this transfer would not adversely impact the Animal Rescue Center, which he did.  The motion eventually carried on a 5-0 vote.

The FBCC moved on to consider two ordinances on second reading:

  • Ordinance 2012-29, approving and adopting modifications to Chapters 4 and 7 of the Land Development Code to include context sensitive setback determinations and parking standards/parking lot design.  City staff modified the proposed ordinance following public input to provide for more public notice.  Commissioner Boner questioned why the city was only recommending posting notice, as opposed to mailing notices to surrounding property owners.  Marshall McCrary, Community Development Director, said that the proposed posting of notice was consistent with other areas of the code.  It was also noted that posting saves both cost and staff time as opposed to mailing notices.  The ordinance was passed unanimously.
  • Ordinance 2012-30, approving amendments to the non-exclusive franchise agreement with Amelia Island Transportation and Trolleys, LLC for the operation of trolley service.  Vice Mayor Charlie Corbett asked a series of questions relating to advertising potential for the vehicles, currently limited to the vehicles’ interiors.  City Attorney Tammi Bach advised the FBCC that this agreement could be brought back at any time for further discussion and modification.  The ordinance passed unanimously.

The FBCC unanimously approved the following advisory board appointments:

  • Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Advisory Board:  Scott Moore, business owner and president of the Historic Fernandina Downtown Merchants Association;
  • Arts and Culture Nassau:  Evelyn McDonald (Friends of the Library); Suzanne McLeod (Amelia Island Jazz Festival); and Jennifer Cook (Amelia Island Film Festival).


City Attorney Bach briefed the FBCC on various elements of the Florida Open Records law governing the conduct of public business.  She emphasized:

  • It is not sufficient that the City Clerk retain copies of official records.  Commissioners have a responsibility to maintain and release upon request any written or electronic record of communication involving city business.  If a commissioner makes notes or otherwise annotates public documents, those notes are also subject to disclosure.
  • Commissioners may socialize with each other as long as city business is not discussed.
  • Commissioners should not discuss items that have already been acted upon because such items might come back before the commission for further action.
  • Third parties cannot be used as a conduit to carry information between commissioners; nor can third parties poll commissioners on behalf of a commissioner.
  • Use of social media can be problematic.  If you do use social media to communicate your thoughts on public business, make sure that other commissioners are not in your address books.

Commissioner Boner asked for a copy of the laws and rules applicable to commissioners.


  • City Manager Gerrity reminded commissioners of the pre-2014 budget workshop to be held on January 8 from 1-5 p.m. at the City Golf Course clubhouse.
  • City Attorney Bach requested a special meeting for an executive discussion on January 15 at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the impact fee lawsuit.
  • Commissioner Boner wished everyone a happy new year.
  • Commissioner Filkoff reaffirmed that commissioners should be prepared to discuss goals during the January 8 workshop.
  • Commissioner Gass asked for further discussion and/or action on:
    • Policy for providing free facility rental for certain non profit organizations, suggesting that perhaps they should be required to pay for clean up and utilities;
    • Disposal of public property;
    • Consideration of setting up a Debt Reduction Account;
    • Revisiting the charter with consideration to changing commission terms from 3 to 4 years to save money in off year elections.  Commissioner Filkoff indicated that there were several related issues that also needed to be considered with respect to the City Charter.

City Manager Gerrity indicated that the agenda for the January 8th meeting was too full for additions at this time.  He suggested leaving these items for another workshop or the first FBCC meeting in February.

  • Vice Mayor Charlie Corbett sent condolences to the family of Rick Gentry.
  • Mayor Pelican again remarked upon City Clerk Mercer’s departure, praising her once again as a “consummate professional.”  She wished the citizenry a happy new year.

The meeting adjourned at 7:20 p.m.

January 3, 2013 4:45 p.m.