Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
September 11, 2014 2:05 p.m.

DSCN3196In a packed chamber with standing room only for latecomers, Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) commissioners spent two and a half hours the evening of September 10, 2014, listening to members of the public vent their concerns over the proposed Port Master Plan and a recent permit application that would allow the Port to handle bulk coal.  At their next meeting, Port commissioners will consider a resolution to ask Kinder Morgan, the Port’s operator, to withdraw its permit application to handle coal.  Commissioners also agreed to hold a public workshop to revisit the Port Master Plan, to be followed by a Town Hall meeting in Fernandina Beach.  Representatives of state Senator Aaron Bean and State Representative Janet Adkins announced plans for another Town Hall meeting for early next month.

City Commissioner Johnny Miller (center) and Rep. Adkins staffer Joseph Zimmerman (right)
City Commissioner Johnny Miller (center) and Rep. Adkins staffer Joseph Zimmerman (right)

Twenty people out of close to one hundred audience members spoke, some more than once, expressing their unhappiness with OHPA plans, distrust of port operators, what they perceived as a lack of transparency regarding port decision making and the port decision makers’ disregard for the environment, the people who live on the island, and the tourism industry.  While some of the speakers lived near the port, the vast majority lived elsewhere on the island.  Despite the high level of public concern regarding the recent port developments, only one Fernandina Beach City Commissioner – Johnny Miller—attended.  Tim Poynter and Roy Smith, two candidates vying for the Group 2 City Commission seat currently held by Charlie Corbett, spoke.  No Nassau County Commissioners attended.

Port Authority Chair Carrol Franklin (l) and District 2 Commissioner Danny Fullwood
Port Authority Chair Carrol Franklin (l) and District 2 Commissioner Danny Fullwood

Port commissioners, to the surprise of many in the audience, began discussion of the coal permit topic by expressing their concern that they did not find out about the request to expand Kinder Morgan’s air permit to handle bulk coal until the public did.  District 2 Commissioner Danny Fullwood asked Kinder Morgan to pull the request.  At OHPA direction, attorney Clyde Davis will draft a resolution to do so after determining whether the OHPA has authority to make such request under the board’s contract with Kinder Morgan.

District 3 commissioner Brian Reaves (center)
District 3 commissioner Brian Reaves (center)

District 3 Commissioner Brian Reaves explained that he was shocked and that it took a week to get answers on how the air permit expansion to handle coal came about without OHPA knowledge.  He said that in moving forward on that permit, corporate Kinder Morgan had blindsided locals.  He said that by doing so, Kinder Morgan demonstrated that they did not understand the community and the environment, and that they were “a poor community partner.”  Reaves wanted a letter sent to corporate headquarters asking for more public involvement.  He said, “It doesn’t feel like we were a partner when we didn’t know about [the permit request].  Kinder Morgan owes us, the city of Fernandina Beach, and the citizens an apology.”

Master plan consultant Brian Wheeler added that Kinder Morgan’s actions put the OHPA on the defensive, since no mention of seeking air quality permit changes to handle coal was included in the master plan, currently a hot topic in the community.

District 1 Commissioner Richard Bruce discusses an item with Joanna Cason, administrative staff.
District 1 Commissioner Richard Bruce discusses an item with Joanna Cason, administrative staff.

District 1 Commissioner Richard Bruce reported to OHPA commissioners on a series of meetings he attended on the proposed Master Plan held by the city of Fernandina Beach’s Planning Advisory Board.  He expressed his desire to hold a workshop with no time limits so that port commissioners could consider the many public comments provided during those meetings and subsequently in writing.   Reaves asked that such a workshop be held in the evening so that working people would be able to attend.  After some discussion, the OHPA decided to hold a public workshop beginning at 1:00 p.m. on October 1 (Alternate date:  October 3) to be coordinated with the city’s Planning Advisory Board to discuss the Master Plan, to be followed by a future Town Hall meeting that will be held on Amelia Island, possibly in the Fernandina Beach Middle School auditorium.  Both meetings will be publicly noticed.

Commissioner Reaves surfaced a suggestion that the OHPA consider earmarking a specific percent of new revenue streams to be set aside for public amenities such as parks or preserves.  The OHPA will consider this at a future meeting.

DSCN3229OHPA Chair and District 4 commissioner Carrol Franklin opened the meeting to public comment.  Speakers overwhelmingly opposed any expansion of port business to include handling bulk coal, citing concerns for health, the environment, property values, tourism and general quality of life issues.

Several speakers raised concerns with respect to the process of developing a master plan and decision-making across the board.  Amelia Island resident Phil Scanlan said, “The [proposed] master plan has missed the boat.  It should be about supporting the community.  The plan got away from its original focus and is more about Kinder Morgan than about the community.”  City resident Michael Leary said, pointing his finger at the OHPA, “Your responsibility is to know what Kinder Morgan is doing.  Your job is to represent us to the port, not the other way around.”

Anthony Miller expressed the uneasiness shared by many in the room when he said, “Thanks for making us aware of all the power you have.  What can you do for us, not to us?”

Jim Adams and Meghan Tarsitano advise audience members of future Town Hall meeting plan.
Jim Adams and Meghan Tarsitano advise audience members of future Town Hall meeting plan.

Jim Adams, legislative assistant to Rep. Janet Adkins, and Meghan Tarsitano, legislative assistant to Sen. Aaron Bean, jointly addressed the OHPA and the audience.  They commended the audience for their involvement in the issues and said that in addition to a local Delegation meeting that Bean and Adkins will hold on November 13 locally, they are working on a Town Hall meeting on the port issues tentatively set for October 7.

Roy Smith, the person who first alerted city authorities to the FDEP permit issue.
Roy Smith, the person who first alerted city authorities to the FDEP permit issue.

Roy Smith, the citizen who first publicly raised the issue of the Kinder Morgan request to expand its air permit to handle coal at a Fernandina Beach City Commission meeting, said that Kinder Morgan was being “disingenuous” in its request.  He said that currently Kinder Morgan can bring in coal by rail and ship it.  But that the open ended nature of the request pending before the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is very open-ended.  He said that if he had not read the legal notice and brought it to public attention the request would have been routinely approved today (September 10).  He said, “I don’t think the Port should deal with people who try to sneak things through.”

Old Town resident Michael Harrison raised concerns regarding process and coordination with the city’s comprehensive plan.  He said the plan did not make clear the division of responsibility between Kinder Morgan and the OHPA.  He asked why the public was not hearing Kinder Morgan’s plan.

Tim Poynter (l) and Michael Harrison await their turns to speak.
Tim Poynter (l) and Michael Harrison await their turns to speak.

Tim Poynter objected to the OHPA including items in writing in the port’s Master Plan, but then saying, “it’s not going to happen.”  He went on to say that while the port has claimed that any coal coming into the port would be transported less than half a mile to Rock Tenn, he found that hard to understand.  Rock Tenn is the single biggest user of natural gas on the island, he said, adding that Rock Tenn’s desire for and commitment to natural gas was the deciding factor in bringing natural gas to the island.  Since the port has admitted that Rock Tenn has not even agreed to be a customer for the new service under the proposed permit expansion, Poynter asked that coal handling be taken out of the port’s plan.

Orlando Avila
Orlando Avila

A couple of speakers expressed support for current port operations, hoping that the port could remain a profitable employer by targeting the smaller commercial ships.  Speaker Orlando Avila harkened back to the early days of Fernandina and the importance of commercial shipping to the local economy.  He said that during public comment he had heard lots of complaints, but not solutions.  He said, “I can’t believe I heard ’20 jobs are not worth it’ [the number of new jobs that the Master Plan would add].  You’re retired,” he said addressing the audience, “you don’t care.”

Ann Thomas
Ann Thomas

City resident Ann Thomas characterized the port’s plans as overreaching.  She criticized the OHPA for including statements that many of the suggested projects were “just preparation in case we need it,” while saying that there was no obligation under the plan for the port to take any of the suggested actions.  She emphasized, “But it is there in black and white, and if you choose to do those things, we have no recourse.”  She reminded the commissioners and the audience that the Port as presently constituted has only been in existence since 1985, and that the peak year for containers was 1989.  She suggested that perhaps it was time to consider whether the port should exist at all.

Medardo Monzon
Medardo Monzon

While every speaker concluded remarks to audience applause, Medardo Monzon, a South Fletcher resident, sent the applause meter over the top.  He told commissioners that he cares deeply about the island and about jobs.  He said that the OHPA is in the midst of a public relations crisis.  “You have lost the trust of the community,” he said, citing their lack of transparency and their unintentional message:  “You can shove it down our throats whether we want it or not.”  He argued that the entire master plan needs to be thrown out and the process started over.  He claimed, “It is a figment of your imagination that the town will flourish under this plan.”  Monzon said that any vision must be a shared vision and that the OHPA has a choice to face a fight or agree to work together with the community to fashion a true master plan.  Citing his past experience with coal handling ports, he charged the OHPA:  “Do not allow it!  It is an environmental nightmare!  No coal—period!”  He concluded his remarks by asking, “Who’s minding the store?”

Val Schwec, Kinder Morgan Commercial Director
Val Schwec, Kinder Morgan Commercial Director

After public comment, Val Schwec, Kinder Morgan’s commercial director responsible for local port operations, asked and received permission to speak.  He took full responsibility for not informing the OHPA about the FDEP permit, claiming that it was a timing issue, not an intentional omission.  He added that Kinder Morgan had expressed concerns over the master plan, some of which were addressed in the final document.  Minutes of past meetings were available to back up his statement, he said.  Schwec said that he did not agree with many items in the plan but that “it is not our [Kinder Morgan’s] plan.”   He added, “Kinder Morgan will do the right thing.”

Schwec said that those on the board and in the audience who know him, know that it is not in his character to deceive.  He expressed confidence in the port’s future saying, “It’s a good facility and there are viable niche markets.  The port is an integral part of the community, with or without coal.”

Before the meeting adjourned, attorney Clyde Davis reminded the audience of the legal authorities governing the OHPA and state requirements for a port master plan.  He said that he would provide legal advice to the commissioners as to whether certain elements could be removed from the plan, admitting that the final decision rested with the commissioners.

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Suanne ThammEditor’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.

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wilma allen
wilma allen (@guest_21541)
8 years ago

Very well reported, as usual. Thank you for the care you take with these reports.

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_21596)
8 years ago
Reply to  wilma allen

As usual, Ms. Thamm does excellent reporting! I hope she knows how much we appreciate her adeptness in producing accurate reporting.
Thank you for giving us also a forum to speak!

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_21667)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

Despite the Port Commissioners’ request that Kinder Morgan withdraw its application for an Air Permit for coal transportation, Kinder Morgan has not done so.
As of 9/15/2014 3:40pm, the application has not been withdrawn.

chuck hall
chuck hall (@guest_21542)
8 years ago

Kudos to this great reporting, and I wish I had been there to see the excitement. Let me state that to the comment: ‘you are retired, you don’t care’….perhaps someone is trying to tell us that ‘you are retired; you don’t matter’.
On behalf of retirees all over the Island and the County…. “We are retired, and we’ve seen what over-reaching industry can do to a town. We have been all over the world, and have lived in towns and cities as far as you can imagine. We’ve seen the coal dust, and polluted waters; the dirty little industrial towns with blind politicians. We’ve decided that Nassau County will be better than that, and this is our home. We expect our elected bodies to protect those things that cannot be replaced, and to allow us to live in peace. We don’t want to look over our shoulder to see yet more traffic and pollution coming from our own sources. We are retired, yes, but we are experienced, knowledgeable and ready to vote for those that will serve us. I beg to differ…. WE MATTER”

Lori
Lori (@guest_21558)
8 years ago
Reply to  chuck hall

Mr. Avilia said that it doesn’t matter ‘to the retirees’ they are not looking for jobs. Not that the ‘retirees don’t matter’. Very different, in my opinion.

Christine Corso
Christine Corso (@guest_21693)
8 years ago
Reply to  Lori

As a meeting attendee, I was offended by Mr. Avila’s discriminatory comments. Why Mr. Avila thought the adults in the room were retired and subsequently not interested in work or job creation was a stretch of his imagination and reflected a poor attitude and perception about the community he is attempting to do business in.

Instead of quickly concluding by a visual assessment what the concerns of the group was, perhaps next time Mr. Avila will “listen” to the content of what is said.

Mary Libby
Mary Libby (@guest_21581)
8 years ago
Reply to  chuck hall

Bravo! Very well stated, Chuck. And, as a new retiree to the island, so true. We’re old, experienced, and we know the importance of quality of life, all life, not just human.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_21584)
8 years ago
Reply to  chuck hall

Chuck is right on point. Wisdom from age, education, and experience is especially important now. And the stakes are high.

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_21544)
8 years ago

Mr. Avila is right in one respect, we may not be offering enough solutions. Since the Port Authority pays no taxes, stays constantly in debt, takes properties off the tax roles when they buy them, receives subsidies from FDOT, and cannot seem to fund itself, then perhaps we can find a profitable solution that provides jobs.
An idea has been suggested that building historic looking homes on the Port’s 29 acres of usable land would generate $1.2 million a year in tax revenue to the County and City. That certainly beats the $50,000 a year they give the City, and the County gets nothing. Our roads wouldn’t get torn up by the trucks. JAXport gets more jobs and more customers. The businesses downtown get more customers for their shops and restaurants and the State of Florida gets more sales tax receipts. And it certainly creates more than 20 jobs.
It has also been mentioned that perhaps we could put a walkway along the waterfront with the old cranes along it (Wilmington Delaware did that). And put a memorial to the history of the Port and a special commemorative statue to the Port Commissioners in remembrance of their contribution to the community. They would definitely be VERY popular people then!

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_21547)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

Faith, Why don’t i ever read you in Voice of the people Your awesome. I really like your vision of the Port of Fernandina.A foot note in History. Another plus The five Commissioners salary amounts to an extra $120,000 in our coffers each year. With it we could throw a party each year as a remembrance.

Cari Cahill
Cari Cahill (@guest_21650)
8 years ago
Reply to  Steve Crounse

…an extra $120k in “our” coffers…

Indeed. Exactly to which coffers are you referring? Since the OHPA salaries arent funded by the public neither is the public taxed by the OHPA, the money wouldnt go to the county or the city at all, should the OHPA cease to exist.
Do you truly know your Port and OHPA history or are you parroting what you’ve been told to be the gospel truth?

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_21652)
8 years ago
Reply to  Cari Cahill

Ms Cahill, Obviously i don’t understand, “knowledge is power”. I assumed , because the Ocean Highway and Port Authority Commissioners of Nassau County, were elected by the citizens of Nassau, Same as our County Commissioners That they would answer to us as Residents of this county. Reading the charter, under Salary, it spells out that the hired help is Payed from the Ports business.Please educate me. Thank you

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_21585)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

A cruise oriented facility? Better than coal. And investment in inter modal transfer facilities for containers – in planned industrial parks off the island.

Ex-Jaxport employee
Ex-Jaxport employee (@guest_21593)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

Ex-Jaxport employee here, they lost a military contract due to union buffoonery. Where’s your sources with more customers or is this an assumption?

The local port is non-union and competitive, not a union nickle and diming with a constant hand in pockets of shipping customers then losing business for union reason. Check out how many Jaxport ex-business agents are in jail. You’ll be surprised

Betty Philemon
Betty Philemon (@guest_21597)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

Why was Mr. Avila allowed to turn to the audience and become personal with his attacks. Telling the audience we don’t care because we’re retired and don’t care about jobs. He doesn’t know us and he has no right to tell us what we think and how we feel. Who was the person that asked him to get back up there for a second time? Probably Bruce. Kudos to the other board members, besides Bruce, who seemed genuinely upset about all of this.

Marcia King
Marcia King (@guest_21605)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

This is an excellent thoughtful analysis and suggestion. I hope it gets some traction

Randy Cottle
Randy Cottle (@guest_21668)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

Bravo Faith!!! Your response to Avila’s ridiculous remark is not only witty but also provides a lucrative and brilliant solution. I wasn’t there, but I take it Avila had no solutions of his own…..

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_21546)
8 years ago

To All, A little Humble Pie for the OHPA Commissioners.They did not know about a request for an Air Corruption Permit from Kinder Morgan To the FDEP.? Val from Kinder Morgan Said “It was a Timing Issue and not deceit ” He said that with a straight face. One thing is very concerning to me and I’ve asked it at an earlier post but have not gotten an answer. A couple days ago, one of the commentator wrote ” Commissioner Bruce, After all is a Customs Broker” Is he now an active customs broker or a retired customs broker Big difference. Can you say conflict of interest.! Perhaps commissioner Bruce can answer this question, I’m sure he scans these comments.

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_21550)
8 years ago
Reply to  Steve Crounse

Mr. Bruce is listed as a member of the Fernandina Maritime Exchange, Inc. He lists his company as Amelia Maritime Services, Inc. Amelia Maritime Services, Inc., located at 309 Centre St., Fernandina, is listed as a Customs Broker. Perhaps Mr. Bruce may make an explanation.

william davis
william davis (@guest_21567)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

Mr,. Bruce retired from Amelia Maritime and that firm has since been absolved into their parent company several years ago and as never a customs broker and Mr. Bruce never worked as a customs broker, where ever you read that is a misprint.

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_21582)
8 years ago
Reply to  william davis

Mr. Davis, Thank you for clearing up the issue of Commissioner Bruce being an active Customs Broker, As a Lawyer, you can see my concern of conflict of interest. It would be unseemly for one of our Ocean Highway and Port Authority of Nassau County Commissioner to be lining there pocket with gold at the expense of there constituents. Thank you for clearing that sticky point up.

Roy G. Smith
Roy G. Smith (@guest_21551)
8 years ago
Reply to  Steve Crounse

At the meeting last night I kept having one thought.
Did the representative from Kinder Morgan fall on his
sword to protect the Port Commissioners?

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_21566)
8 years ago
Reply to  Roy G. Smith

Roy, One of two things will happen, If your right, and he saved the Commissioner Butts, There will be a little bonus at Christmas Time. If in fact,he did it behind there back, We will soon read in the Observer That Mr.Val Schwec, commercial director at Kinder Morgan has put in his resignation to pursue other Opportunities.

Cari Cahill
Cari Cahill (@guest_21651)
8 years ago
Reply to  Steve Crounse

And why would he need to do that, exactly? He isnt a direct employee of the OHPA, he is employed by Kinder Morgan. Why would he fall on his sword for people who dont directly sign his paycheck?
Having personally known Val for many years, I can say without a doubt that he has never been anything but forthright and honest with the OHPA and in fact, has gone to bat with his employers (both with KM and the previous partners) on several occasions to help benefit the OHPA as well as the Port of Fernandina.

Betty Philemon
Betty Philemon (@guest_21598)
8 years ago
Reply to  Roy G. Smith

Could be.

Frank O'Donnell
Frank O'Donnell (@guest_21549)
8 years ago

I think we all owe Mr. Smith and Ms. Thamm thanks for bringing this issue to light. There are obviously many issues with the coal plan as well as the background and reputation of the company that seeks to profit from it. But there is a separate issue regarding the state law which created the port commission in the first place. Apparently, local governments do not have veto power over projects that a local community such as Fernandina Beach would find objectionable. So perhaps our state lawmakers need to change the law to give local elected officials power to veto something like this potential soot storm.

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_21552)
8 years ago

According to Florida Statute 339.135 (4) The Port’s funding for projects comes from the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Program.
And WE ALL have a say in what happens at the Port, particularly the City. For the Port to receive funding they must meet certain criteria. #4 states: “The project is not inconsistent with an approved local comprehensive plan of any local government within whose boundaries the project is located in whole or in part, or if inconsistent, is accompanied by an explanation of why the inconsistency should be undertaken.”
That is why it is SO important that citizens get involved in the Port’s Master Plan development. We need to give compelling reasons why our “vision” for Amelia Island is important.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_21589)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

From the City’s Comprehensive Plan:
Policy 9.02.03.
Any impact to urban services or facilities (i.e., drainage, potable water, wastewater, traffic or solid waste) brought upon by the identified and approved Port Master Plan projects, which results in the degradation of an adjusted level of service standard for such service or facility, shall be mitigated to the satisfaction of the City and/or the County, as appropriate, prior to the issuance of a building permit for the expansion.
Policy 9.02.04.
The Port Authority shall not commence construction on any Port expansion program until all required permits and leases are secured.

This appears to be the only teeth the City has with regards to operations at the Port. Certainly anything that creates additional traffic on access roads that DOT has already classifed as “Failure” would be cause for action.

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_21601)
8 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott

Mr. Lott,
The Port signed a Development Agreement with the City in the 80’s that you will hear about later. To our knowledge, it remains in effect.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_21602)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

Faith, I understand and am anxious to understand all the details, but this part of the City’s Comp Plan is specifically focused on the Port and the Comp Plan trumps all “private agreements” as long as it doesn’t conflict state law/regulation.

Karen Thompson
Karen Thompson (@guest_21555)
8 years ago

I’m still waiting for a reason why none of our city or county commissioners seem to have any interest in this important area issue. Except Johnny Miller and candidates Tom Poynter and Roy Smith who are on top of it. Your vote counts!

Judith Harris
Judith Harris (@guest_21569)
8 years ago
Reply to  Karen Thompson

You are right to ask for a reason Karen. It is hard to understand why all the Commissioners were not at the meeting. I agree with all the comments made opposing this horrible idea of coal coming into our town in any way, shape or form. Thank you Mr. Smith for alerting the public to this disastrous scheme that was being pulled off behind our backs.

Peggy Bulger
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
8 years ago
Reply to  Judith Harris

Karen, exactly. We need to demand an explanation

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_21603)
8 years ago
Reply to  Karen Thompson

The request to the DEP from the City resulted from actions by Mayor Ed Boner and Comm. Johnny Miller to City Manager Joe Gerrity based on correspondence I received, so let’s give full credit to all those involved.

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_21636)
8 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lott

The true reason the petition was held up was because only one citizen filed it. Otherwise, legally, it would have gone through. What I find more interesting, is why the City Commissioners have not joined in the petition as a party. If that one concerned citizen loses the administrative hearing that decides the fate of the permit, it will be issued. Then you can certainly blame your local and State representatives. There is no other “legal” way to hold it up that I know of. It’s fascinating to watch politicians in an election year take credit for what someone else did.

Robert Riegler
Robert Riegler (@guest_21559)
8 years ago

My wife and I have only owned our home here since 2011 so I do not know what motivated the City Fathers, etc. back in 1984 to create the Port Commission but really folks, the time for change is upon this island. I have owned and operated my own business since 1982 and the trust of our customers and clients has been won based upon actions not words. We in life are judged by our actions and I urge you to research Kinder Morgan. Their actions in other “locations” speaks for itself. Would you place a refinery in the middle of Yellowstone National park? I think not. “To the greatest degree possible non public roads will be used”(Kinder Morgan speak) to connect the port facility to off island? Last time I looked there are but two ways on/off this island both public roads. Where was that written and by whom? No one who has ever set foot on this island. The roads pass directly thru residential areas, local schools, doctors offices even Baptist Medical Center Hospital. Diesel fumes, coal dust. Really? 168 or 700 trucks logging trucks or coal trucks makes not a difference who wants to live with this. All for 22 jobs(sorry folks their numbers not mine).

We have a jewel in the rough with the port facility. Mixed use residential development/river walk shops, park, etc. is what needs to be considered. Forward thinking not industrial use on top of a triving residential/retail is what the port commissions needs to be considering. Please look into what Savannah GA did or Gloucester MA who took a rundown port facility and turned it into a multiuse location creating hundreds of jobs in an eco friendly environment. Yes folks, this requires the Port Commissioners, the City of Fernandina Mayor and Counsel, the City Manager and City Planning Department all step up to the plate and educate themselves to what can be vs. what has been. If they cannot or will not it’s time for a change. “it’s just a location” Kinder Morgan’s own words I would submit to each of you should not apply to Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island. This is a very special island which with care and stewardship will for years to come shine on. It’s time to Take Back Fernandina folks.

Respectfully Submitted, R. Riegler

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_21594)
8 years ago
Reply to  Robert Riegler

Thank you for those very wise words. The Port property is tax exempt also. Every year the Port is in use we lose $1.2 million in property taxes.
We all want to save Fernandina and its quaintness. We love our waterways, our marshes, our beaches and our downtown.
Let’s work to put something together for the future, not the past.
Thank you for your realism and your understanding.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_21608)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

Faith, not questioning your number but can you give the assumptions behind the $1.2 million in property tax revenue? Just curious as sometimes these numbers become facts without any verification.

tony crawford
tony crawford (@guest_21561)
8 years ago

Karen, you are 100% right. This is the question that keeps coming up. There is a great community effort with regard to the Port. There has been a lot of misinformation, wrong information, misleading information, and some dumb information floating around this whole controversy. It may be an oversimplification, but the port is in the city. The activities of the port effects all who live and work in the city. We elect our city government to not only pass various resolutions and conduct the normal everyday business of running the city, but just as important is their role to represent the folks who gave them their trust by voting them into office to represent them in the first place. I was never a political science major, but this seems like basic government 101. If it effects the populous of the city— the government of the city should be involved to some extent. Even if that extent is to be a voice, or a fact finding, or a communicating body to it’s citizens. The fact that they didn’t send a representative to this meeting is interesting. Johnny Miller has been very informative with this project and I know the Mayor has played a part dealing with this. It just was eye opening that Tim Pointer and Roy Smith both wanting to be commissioners and Johnny Miller who is active in this debate were the only ones present. Perception is reality folks—this doesn’t look good for the City

Judith Harris
Judith Harris (@guest_21570)
8 years ago
Reply to  tony crawford

Well said Tony.

william davis
william davis (@guest_21568)
8 years ago

we moved from Nassau County last year to Texas for a better opportunity, the new school my young kids are in is amazing, it took a lot of taxes to build such a modern campus, and those dollars are from industry. The Port of Houston annually generates $500 billion into the US economy, $52 billion in US Taxes, $178billion to the local economy, $4.5billion in local & state taxes, 1.1 million related jobs, or ~20% of the local Houston area population. My 18 year old son entering the workforce has amazing opportunities for high salaried employment in the industrial trades.
I love Fernandina, guess have to accept that one day my Texas tax dollars will contrubute in funding your welfare once you kill your local economy and die on the vine

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_21587)
8 years ago
Reply to  william davis

This local economy will die if the Port’s Master Plan is not revised – and Kinder Morgan’s coal permit request goes through. Florida is not Texas, and the Port of Fernandina is not Houston.

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_21588)
8 years ago
Reply to  william davis

Mr . Davis, Seems you love the lifestyle in Texas, Much more than this old sleepy Southern Town. I would suggest that you take the next train out of town.

Kevin Lawrence
Kevin Lawrence (@guest_21591)
8 years ago
Reply to  william davis

I feel ya …..NIMBY folks killed a shipyard on the north end where that nasty hulk of an old fertilizer plant is ..lots of good jobs …same crowd is at it again . These folks want a retirement community composed of the well off and those that serve them

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_21611)
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Lawrence

Kevin – Retirement crowd? There are good jobs, and there are bad jobs. This is a world class destination site that can made even better with a Port Authority and Kinder Morgan vision that integrates the nature and community here. Ask the Ritz and Omni. Guess what kind of jobs will result from this – here and now – and what kind will be lost. Been Kevin’s route in Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Newport News, Va., and I don’t recommend it to anyone – except, perhaps, shareholders, partners, and executives of Kinder Morgan.

Faith Ross
Faith Ross (@guest_21595)
8 years ago
Reply to  william davis

Mr. Davis,
The Port pays no taxes. They do not contribute, and the public transportation money they get from grants, as one of their employees said, was to “build another warehouse”. According to their own master plan they are presently at 50% capacity. Why are they building a new warehouse? Why not put the $350,000 of warehouse money into an innovative educational program for your son?
Every year the Port exists we lose $1.2 million in real estate tax revenue. From the Port Commission’s office in Yulee it could take all the public money that it receives and create jobs at Crawford Diamond. They could be a REAL asset to the County and the City of Fernandina.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_21610)
8 years ago
Reply to  Faith Ross

Kevin,
You are kidding right? The proposal was for a dry dock/shipyard there. Yes, some jobs would have been created as well as the environmental issues associated with the refurbishment of ships. And Nassau Oil & Fertilizer Company has been there for a number of generations (early 1900s or before? – Charlie Corbett could give you the history) where it began as processing plant of the menhaden fish. Any development of that property is going to have to deal with the 14th St. bridge and related traffic issues.

Gordon Dressler
Gordon Dressler (@guest_21604)
8 years ago
Reply to  william davis

Mr. Davis,
It is highly presumptuous of you—let alone being completely false—to assert that the economy of Fernandina Beach/Nassau County is dependent on the Port of Fernandina existing. Apparently, during your time in Nassau County, you learned little about the economic impact that tourism & resorts, the pulp & paper mills, and other businesses (e.g., A1A corridor, Yulee complex) have, far in excess of that from the Port.
I am overjoyed to hear you moved to Texas.

Peggy Bulger
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
8 years ago

Once again, Suanne Thamm has given us an excellent and accurate account of reality — Thank you!! Reading the articulate and passionate responses here, it gives me hope that “we, the people” can make a difference. I’ve been frustrated by many issues that have required our city and county decision-makers to act responsibly, but this is the most blatant case of corporate greed and indifference to local good that I have ever witnessed. Kinder Morgan is a corporation based in Texas — they are interested in making a profit for Kinder Morgan PERIOD. A proposal to ship, store, and truck 500,000 tons of coal through the center of a small community, a thriving tourist destination and a nationally recognized historic district? Really? What concerns me is the lack of response by our elected officials . . . are they that complacent? Lazy? It is frightening to think that this permit would have been granted without our knowledge and input . . . . a private citizen had to alert us all to this impending crisis. Let’s all keep on our toes . . .

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_21590)
8 years ago

To All, One more note then I’ll shut-up. Just picked up the News Leader, Looking for there read on Port Expansion and the Coal issue.Are you Kidding Me!!! Lead Story ” Comic Con Popular” The only news or comments are Voice of the People Which are at least 4 Days Old. The biggest news story since the Civil War and we have to wait til next tues. to hear what they have to say? Wow Lets see we have the majority of City Commissioners[ Except, Miller and Boner] that don’t thinks it’s there business, and a local news paper that could care less about pertinent NEWS. Changes need to be Made.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_21626)
8 years ago
Reply to  Steve Crounse

For the record, I alerted all city commissioners, city staff, and county commissioners Steve Kelly and Danny Leeper by e-mail, with attached links, on Sept 5th.

Kevin Lawrence
Kevin Lawrence (@guest_21592)
8 years ago

Good informative article , learned a good bit from it ….but I would stress , look at the huge coal fueled power plants on Hecksher ( I work at one ) – take a boat rip around them , they have way way more volume of coal coming across their docks than the port here could handle – and wildlife is thriving all around , Pelotes island nature preserve is smack in the middle of it . Coal is not gonna ruin the island folks …use your eyes and brains and go see . I do however agree on the trucks -rail is the sensible way to transport it , most economical too I bet .

Gordon Dressler
Gordon Dressler (@guest_21606)
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Lawrence

Kevin,
Can you please provide a reference to a scientific study that concludes all wildlife around the Hecksher power plants is “thriving”. Looks can be deceiving. I would be particularly interested in knowing about studies of the effects of coal dust on aquatic filter feeders, such as oysters and clams, and animals higher up the food chain that feed on such.

Robert Prager
Robert Prager (@guest_21615)
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Lawrence

Thank you for you comment. I have not visited the power plant on Hecksher but I was a designer for the power industry and have inspected many coal fueled power plants. I would not be surprised that conditions around the plant and coal handling facilities are excellent. The coal handling was designed to contain contaminants. It is my understanding that the plant uses a continuous ship unloader and a sealed conveyor system to move the coal to two fuel storage domes specifically to prevent dust from escaping to the surrounding environment and to maintain the quality of the fuel.

The amount and type of pollution from coal handling is dependent on the care of the operators and the equipment used to handle the coal. The plant on Hecksher is not using clam shells, hoppers and trucks to transfer the coal. They are not double handling the coal in an open environment after storing it on a barge.

Robert Warner
Robert Warner (@guest_21633)
8 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Lawrence

Linked is a short video of the very large coal handling terminal in Newport News (larger than contemplated here). If the “how” and real details of the proposed Port coal handling project (including transportation mechanisms, use of “subcontractors” rather than employees to execute terminal and transportation functions, best practices technology, environmental compliance, and broad indemnity and surety provisions to protect the city, county, residents, and the surrounding environment) are not tied in to the Port Expansion Master Plan, carefully negotiated and nailed to the floor as conditions precedent to any permitting , then……

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP-DP-2hti8

Peggy Bulger
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
8 years ago
Reply to  Robert Warner

Read the articles concerning Kinder Morgan’s track record in Newport News and other communities where they handle and transport coal . . . it’s not pretty. Why would we trust a company that has been sued by other local communities? More important, why do we have to submit to their wishes? This is OUR community and we should decide.

Jeanne Wyatt
Jeanne Wyatt (@guest_21600)
8 years ago

I do not live in Fernandina Beach City Limits. I live on the southern end of the island at the Plantation. I still care deeply for our county seat, our town, and everyone enjoying the natural beauty while earning a living. I owned 2 businesses in town before retiring and am grateful that Kinder Morgan wasn’t here to run me out. I have survived many lung issues and spend hours each day nebulizing steroids to be able to breathe. I think it is an abomination to consider this criminal company who has such a horrible reputation. These trucks on our roads and the wind and air belong to more than just city limit people.

Gordon Dressler
Gordon Dressler (@guest_21607)
8 years ago
Reply to  Jeanne Wyatt

Jeanne,
The south end of the island may actually be closer to the Kinder Morgan coal transportation issue than you think. Without further information from KM or FDOT, one has to assume that Kinder Morgan may be able to transport crushed coal in trucks along AIA, past the airport and southend resorts and across the Nassau Sound bridge, heading toward the Port of Jacksonville and/or industries located close to Jacksonville beaches.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_21613)
8 years ago

Can we remain focused on discussion of the issues and not resort to personal attacks just because the other person’s opinion is different? I think that would be a much more productive utilization of the FO comment board.

Karen Thompson
Karen Thompson (@guest_21616)
8 years ago

David Lott-Does Charlie Corbett’s family own the pogey plant property? If that’s true wouldn’t that be a conflict of interest? No wonder he’s been silent on this issue.

tony Crawford
tony Crawford (@guest_21617)
8 years ago

Karen, you are 100% right that the Corbetts own the pogey plant. The fact is however it not even close to a conflict of interest. The City has no vote in this matter. Charlie has no vote in this matter. It would only be a conflict of interest it his vote gave him or his family personal gain, but he has no vote. Does anyone have any facts that they were even contacted to sell the property? There have been other commissioners silent on this issue also. This is my augment—why hasn’t the City stood up found out the facts, represented us at the County meeting and voiced what is so obvious the wishes of those they were elected to represent? They may not have a legal vote in the matter, but they can represent our views If I am wrong on this please let me know.

Peggy Bulger
Peggy Bulger(@peggy-bulger1949gmail-com)
8 years ago
Reply to  tony Crawford

Tony, well said . . . the city commissioners, our mayor, Joe Gerrity (city manager) and Steve Kelley (our county commissioner) ALL need to represent us and protect the public’s interest.

Sherry Carter Garbarini
Sherry Carter Garbarini (@guest_21620)
8 years ago

The public has to unite and attend with bodies and a voice. Since mr Avila assumes everyone is retired with no jobs I suggest all those who fall under that category attend meetings during regular working hours and report back to ‘central’ maybe this web page? Idk, I’ll leave that up to the professional journalists.
All meetings after work hours should be LOADED with locals pressing for answers and demands. Human presence has a profound energy.

John P. Megna
John P. Megna (@guest_21629)
8 years ago

As usual some very good comments, my biggest concern is the increase of truck traffic and the effects it has i.e. coal dust, etc to our city of Fernandina and the Island. Is there rail service? or how about a Bridge ( very expensive) or some other means of transportation?
Second comments: we are! basically an island of retirees, and I am one. I personally think the comment about us is untrue – we do care! Have a nice trip! Thanks to those candidates, Tim and Smith who seem to care about this issue, and to the two commissioners – Mayor Ed Boner and J. Miller for their concerns. Does the County Commissioners really think that all that traffic on the roads and leading to the Island will be justified – it is now a zoo!

Steve Crounse
Steve Crounse (@guest_21637)
8 years ago
Reply to  John P. Megna

John, Your spot on, truck traffic is the bane of this Island. Rail traffic for logging and containers is not much better, unless it was somehow rerouted, not through our historic district. The Ocean Highway and Port Authority Commissioners of Nassau county have far reaching powers. Commissioner Bruce Attested to them in his viewpoint Article last week in the News Leader. Every person should take the time to read their Charter. Which was written back in 1941.The social/economic environment of the island was way different then. They have the capabilities to investigate and construct a Barge System that would alleviate truck traffic on our streets. I’m not talking just Port Business . Hold meetings with the Mills, City and County Commissioners. Get the State and Corp. of Engineers involved. Dave Lott in one of his posts mentioned a Lumber Mill up the St. Mary’s river. Dave would there be room for a transfer area at that point? Just thinking. One more point, when do our city commissioners meet to discuss the [ spot zoning] that the Port Needs for their phase one of the expansion plan? We need to contain this monster in it’s cage. No to Zoning change.

tony Crawford
tony Crawford (@guest_21640)
8 years ago

Steve, I can’t help but comment on your wish to somehow have rail traffic re routed to the mill and not go through the historic district. The Mill is actually in the historic district and I can’t imagine where they would re route it. The fact, (sad fact) is that we ate last night at the Salty Pelican. ( great food and service). We sat at the rail over looking the marina. To be honest there is nothing to look at. No park, no public walkways at all opposite the Pelican. It is just a derelict rundown stretch of noting. Couldn’t help but think, “what a total waste”. A beautiful sunset given to us each night by nature and we can’t figure out for over twenty years how to make it more enjoyable for all of us. I watched folks try to walk along the sidewalk that isn’t a sidewalk, which is owned by— nobody really knows who? Steve, one of the highlights of the night was when the train came past, blew it’s whistle and everyone waved and cheered. I guess it’s the little things that make us happy.

Gordon Dressler
Gordon Dressler (@guest_21658)
8 years ago

Just google’d “coal dust effects marine animals”. Interesting reading. Here are links to the #1 and #2 hits, both from May 2013:
http://earthfix.opb.org/energy/article/coal-dusts-environmental-impacts/
http://daily.sightline.org/2013/03/20/how-unburnt-coal-affects-water-the-state-of-the-science/
Where’s there lack of—or scant—scientific study, the EPA (and I assume that also means FDEP) is supposed to be conservative.

Cheryl
Cheryl (@guest_21689)
8 years ago

I am completely outraged at Kinder Morgan for thinking that transporting coal to trucks in our town would be something that would be OK with us, it’s not! It’s bad enough that we have to breath in the toxic air from the coal fired plant. There are a dozen or more negative health effects of breathing in coal dust, not to mention water pollution, ecosystem loss and degradation. These impacts will be severe, especially for seniors, children and those with a respiratory disease. This company has a bad track record, look up the facts and cover ups about Kinder Morgan, enough of their sugar coating we are on to you!! What is wrong with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection saying that this will not adversely impact air quality, I assure you it will. Fernandina Beach will be a devastating black landscape with polluted air & water all over the place. We can not let this happen!!

Christine Corso
Christine Corso (@guest_21692)
8 years ago

Great Report on the meeting. Thank you.

Several excellent posts regarding alternative uses for the port property, all of which would provide more income to the City than the present port terminal arrangement.

The State (approved by the Governor on 6/17/2005) is the one that has granted the all-inclusive powers to OHPA (http://laws.flrules.org/2005/293) and ultimately the State is the body that will revise or severely restrict its authorities. The citizens of the Island and surrounds will need to effect change through our State Representatives.

A couple of sections from the document found within the above link:

Section 5. Salaries of commissioners, port director, agents, and employees;
retirement plan; health insurance plan.—Each member of the board
shall receive a salary not to exceed $24,000 per annum as may be fixed from
time to time by the board. The board may employ a port director, who shall
be the administrative officer of the port authority and shall perform such
duties as the board may determine. The compensation of the port director
shall be fixed by the board and shall be paid from the revenues of the port
authority. The board may appoint such other agents and employees as may
be necessary and fix their compensation, which shall be paid from the revenues
of the port authority. The board may institute an actuarially sound
retirement plan. The board may also establish a health insurance plan for those
members who choose to participate. These plans shall be funded from
the revenues of the port authority.

Section 8. Purposes.—The purposes for which the authority is by this act
created and which it is authorized to carry out are hereby declared to be
public purposes of benefit to the citizens of the County of Nassau and the
state.

The following link is for the Port of Fernandina Maritime Exchange whose purposes is to promote the Port. I question a potential conflict of interest between promoting the Port and benefitting the county citizens. You may come to your own conclusions on the issue by reviewing the listed personnel, stakeholders and the chairman.

http://www.portoffernandinamaritimeexchange.org/index.html

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