Forward Fernandina projects up for discussion

Submitted by

Susan Hardee StegerLibrary 001

At some point we need to talk about Forward Fernandina to “make sure everyone sees Forward Fernandina in the same way,” says newly elected Commissioner Ed Boner at the January 8  goals workshop.    Forward Fernandina, a 2011 controversial long range strategic plan, began with an initial loan of 1.8 million dollars to fund downtown infrastructure projects and to join  with the County and Friends of the Library to support an expanded and improved City library.

Boner indicated he wants to  “make sure we are on the same page about the waterfront, library, Centre Street, boardwalk and all components that were originally there to make sure we are thinking the same thing.”   He suggested that discussion focus on  “priorities based on maintenance first, and higher costs later. If we don’t do it now, what will it cost later?”

Commissioner Filkoff  asked if we are going to “rethink decisions we have made and commitments we have made?”  Boner responded,  “Everything is on the table for me.”

Filkoff reminded commissioners that library funding is a commitment made to the county and to the community by the city commission on a 3 -2 vote. “If we have discussions and if we come together and indicate we will support [library expansion] it makes their [[Friends of the Library] job of raising money easier,” says Boner.

Patti Clifford, director of finance, advised commissioners that should the city withdraw from the library expansion project “don’t think we have a reservoir of money to be used on maintenance. We don’t.”  The proposed 1.6 million expansion and enhancement will address some maintenance issues in the current structure. Key to the commission discussion is the cost to the city taxpayers for the deferred maintenance expense on the city owned library facility in the event the library project does not go forward.  The current facility built in the 1970’s is in need of repair which includes a new roof estimated to cost $100,000.

City Manager Joe Gerrity plans to have Steve Lazar, of V.R.L. Architects address the commission in February so the commission can review the conceptual plan and ask questions regarding the project and maintenance issues on the current building. At that time, “we can have the library discussion and we can either vote it up or down,” says Gerrity.  To date, the city has spent $95,000 for architectural services.

The existing building is owned and maintained by the City.  Operational costs associated with the library including utilities are paid by the County.

As the commission planned a meeting to discuss Forward Fernandina, newly elected Commissioner Pat Gass commented, “Well that will be an interesting meeting.”

January 9, 2013 9:30 a.m.