Weekly comments from Dale Martin

By Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
March 20, 2020

Dale Martin

As the world struggles to come to grips with the impact of the Covid-19 virus, significant decisions are being made and key resources provided by federal and state governments. Despite the lack of authority and availability of such resources, local government (both County and City) has its own role to play.

Although not formally meeting as a body, I continue to work closely with City Commissioners, providing information and offering recommendations. The City Commissioners remain fully engaged in their leadership role. The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners declared a State of Emergency, and the City has enacted a similar measure. While such a measure does provide for limited additional authority for local officials, the primary reason for such a declaration is to formally mark the start of the disaster period for recovery purposes. This will enable the City to record specific expenses related to the disaster and submit for reimbursement of those costs at a later date.

In the meantime, I am working to keep local government operations as normal as possible. City Hall remains open and staffed. Staff in my department and the other departments at City Hall (City Clerk, Human Resources, Building, and Planning and Conservation) are available for limited public interaction, and more available via telephone or email. Because our work normally involves working with the public, processes may be somewhat slower or reduced due to the current restrictions.

Applications and permits are still being accepted, but a new effort to require electronic applications and permits is being implemented. Building inspections will be scheduled to minimize public engagement, either when residents are not on site or even remotely using video technology (introduced by the City’s Building Official Mr. Stephen Beckman). Planning and Conservation Department staff have also developed electronic applications and forms.

Government operations at the Peck Center, which houses the City Attorney, Finance, Information Technology, Code Enforcement, and Fire Administration offices have had minimal disruption to their services, most of which are internal to city government. Chief Silcox serves as the key emergency management leader and, when not engaged with other activities locally or with County agencies, coordinates the City’s response efforts from the Peck Center. Code Enforcement efforts, especially those in the field that require a level of public interaction, will suffer some level of disruption, but enforcement efforts will continue.

At the City’s Maintenance Yard, the Streets, Fleet, Stormwater, and Utilities Departments function somewhat normally. The general public rarely interacts directly with these departments. The water and sewer systems are not threatened by the current crisis and, in most emergencies, can easily adapt due to the personnel and equipment.  The City’s Utility Billing office has suspended in-person payments. Payments can be made electronically, via mail, or in the drop box located at front of City Hall. Due to the current situation, late fees and non-payment disconnections have been temporarily suspended.

Parks and Recreation programs and services have been significantly affected. Organized activities have been cancelled and suspended in response to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to minimize public gatherings. Small-group outdoor activities remain available for area residents, such as parks, tennis, pickleball, the skatepark, and the golf course. Unless directed by the Governor or circumstances significantly change, I do not foresee the need to close the beaches. My plea to residents is to avoid concentrating at the primary parking areas and beach accesses at Main Beach and Seaside Park. Do not provide a reason to implement restrictions on access to those areas as has been occurring in other areas of the State.

It is the public safety component that presents the most significant challenges. By their very nature, they engage the public during dangerous or unhealthy situations. Procedures and policies have been developed by both Chief Silcox and Chief Hurley to protect their personnel as best as possible during the current crisis. Some programs, out of necessity, have been reduced or suspended. The goal is to protect the public safety personnel while striving to maintain and provide the level of services expected by City residents. The Covid-19 virus is presented a completely new series of challenges. I am confident in the capabilities of the City’s public safety personnel to protect and serve residents to the extent possible through their leadership, training, experience, and equipment.

As initially indicated, I will work with the City Commission to continue to provide the necessary support to maintain as close to normal government operations as possible. The sense of community is strong here, and I envision that community spirit growing stronger during this unprecedented event. Support your family, neighbors, and local businesses to the best extent possible.

I expect more changes will happen, as circumstances shift rapidly, but City staff will continue to serve this community to the best level possible. Please stay healthy.

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Linda Laine
Linda Laine (@guest_56817)
3 years ago

Thank you for your straightforward and informative report. We are in good hands.
Linda Laine

Penny Landregan
Penny Landregan (@guest_56818)
3 years ago

I pray that God will continue to protect our county and that we end up with only 1 case in the western part of our county. Keep up the good works City of FB,, our county officials and our residents.

mikecollinspr2014Mike Collins
3 years ago

Please keep our non-crowded beach open.