Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
February 23, 2015 7:10 a.m.
Proclamation and a presentation
Fernandina Beach Mayor Ed Boner recognized Mr. Tielee Bennett upon his retirement following 27 years and 9 months of dedicated service to the city. Bennett, who retired on January 31, 2015, was commended for his “sincere and conscientious efforts” as an employee in the Parks and Recreation Department. Boner informed him that a copy of the proclamation would be made a permanent matter of record in the proceedings of the City Commission as a testimonial of the city’s sincere thanks.
Representatives of the Nassau County Department of Health were on hand to formally recognize the City’s efforts for being named one of the 2015 Florida Healthy Weight Community Champions by the Florida Surgeon General. Department Director Eugenia Ngo-Seidel asked Mike Godwin, Environmental Health Services Division Manager, to make remarks.
Godwin said that Fernandina was one of only 65 Florida communities recognized under this program. The Surgeon General recognizes that local governments play an important role in decreasing the prevalence of unhealthy weight in Florida. Various policies can be implemented that help increase physical activity and improve nutrition. In Fernandina Beach, those policies have been implemented in requiring new developments to include bicycle and pedestrian trails, emphasizing transportation options such as biking and walking, mixed-use land uses, an active parks and recreation program, support for farmers markets, and participation in the Florida Blueways program. Additionally, the city has been recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community.
Mayor Boner accepted the certificate on behalf of the city.
The Fernandina Beach City Commission reappointed Eric Bartelt to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and appointed Trudie Richards as a new member to the committee. They also reappointed Jane Paige to the Greens & Oversight Committee.
Update on Goals Workshop
The city has now reviewed the second draft document reflecting the results of the recent FBCC Goals Planning Workshop. Gerrity said that he expects the final work product soon and will then send it out to commissioners. He said that the highest priority appears to be the Amelia waterfront. Commissioners who attended the retreat thanked Gerrity for the successful workshop. Gerrity said that the final document would be available on the city website probably in a week. Boner suggested that the goals be posted in the Commission Chambers as a constant reminder for commissioners and the public.
Sidewalk to nowhere
Vice Mayor Johnny Miller asked the City Attorney for a status report on the sidewalk from Centre Street to the Salty Pelican. She replied that she has heard nothing from CSX, even though First Coast Railroad does not seem to have a problem with the plan as submitted. Gerrity said that issue would be a topic for the upcoming meeting with the railroads.
Traffic concerns at Atlantic and Citrona
Commissioner Pat Gass raised problems noted in a constituent email relating to the dangers encountered by pedestrians and vehicles at the intersection of Citrona and Atlantic Avenue when parents pick up their children from school in the afternoon. Commissioners engaged in significant discussion over the vehicular sight lines, poor driving behavior of some motorists and the difficulties they present for children who, because they live closer than 2 miles to the school, must walk or bike home. At least three jurisdictions—City, County and School Board—must coordinate to solve the issue as well as sidewalks along Citrona. Commissioners and the City Manager asked the police to investigate the problem and see what the city can do to improve safety at that intersection.
McGill FBO lease
Commissioner Tim Poynter said that he received a letter indicating that there was an offer being made by McGill Aviation to forego the last 3 years of their lease to be replaced with a 40-year lease. Gerrity said that any lease would be for 20-10-10 years. “If someone builds a building at the airport,” Gerrity said, “they have 40 years to depreciate it. In a 20-year span, they really can’t get their return. I think that’s one of the impediments to development at the airport. Anything that I do will have to come before [the FBCC] for approval.”
Poynter said, “We shouldn’t move forward on anything like that until the time is appropriate. McGill has a lease that expires in 2018. I think this is jumping the gun, unless they are happy with opening up a new FBO lease that everyone can apply for. We already have an RFP pending for another FBO.” When Gerrity repeated that everything would come back to the FBCC for approval, Poynter said, “I’m just suggesting that we not spend a lot of time on this now.”
Vice Mayor Miller, the commission’s liaison to the Airport Advisory Committee, reported that Sean McGill had spoken at the committee’s last meeting and that although there are applicants for the second FBO, McGill “is ready to pull the trigger right now.” McGill apparently said that over the years there has been a lot of talk about a second FBO, but one has never materialized.
Gerrity said that the city needs to wait until it can evaluate the responses to the current RFP for an FBO on the east side of the airport. If nothing meets the city’s requirements, he said, “Then it is a whole new ballgame.” Gass suggested that the FBCC could look at McGill’s request just like Billy Casper Golf’s request to extend its contract, conditional upon their investment in the course. Boner said he felt strongly that any lease should be competitive and that part of the agreement should include the city’s capturing a percentage of gas sales, not a flat fee.
Gerrity reported that commissioners will be asked to consider allowing recreational parachuting on city beaches at the March 3, 2015 Regular Meeting.
City Attorney Bach has requested an Executive Session seeking the will of the FBCC in defending an appeal filed in connection with a lawsuit over playground equipment. The case, filed in Oregon, was decided in favor of the city but is being appealed by the equipment provider.
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.