Board of County Commissioners honor employees

By Cindy Jackson
August 23, 2019

Jennifer Kirkland, one of three employees recognized for years of service.

Each month, Nassau County employees with 20+ years of service are recognized at regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners. This month, the following were to be recognized: Pat Cauley (Fire Rescue), 26 years; Dale Green (Fire Rescue), with 25 years of service and Jennifer Kirkland (Road & Bridge), 20 years. Pictured are County Manager Mike Mullin, Commissioner Chair Justin Taylor and Jennifer Kirkland.

Megan K. Diehl, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Keith Ellis, Director of the Building Dept, successfully moved beyond the new hire probationary period and officially joined the Nassau County staff.

Discussion at the end of the meeting included the official appointment of two department directors, having successfully completed their probation period. Those individuals were Keith Ellis, Director of the Building Department and Megan K. Diehl, Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

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Weekly Comments from Dale Martin

Dale Martin
City Manager
Fernandina Beach
August 23, 2019 – 8:15 a.m.

City Manager Dale Martin

Following the recent National Citizen Survey, a few people questioned the process of the survey. I contacted Ms. Damema Mann, Director of National Engagement of the National Research Center, to solicit her response to some of the local concerns. Please note that most of the information that she provides is included in the Technical Appendices provided (but typically not read) as part of the survey results. 

Hi Dale, Thanks for sharing this article, and the comments from the City Commissioner.

The Technical Appendices report has detailed methodology (including information on the sampling/household selection process) in Appendix C: Detailed Survey Methods. I encourage you to direct folks there, and of course, I’m happy to answer any follow-up/clarification questions anyone may have. It’s always our goal to use best practices in survey research, be transparent with our methods and get you data that is an accurate reflection of your population as a whole. Here’s some information from that section that directly addresses how households are selected (and, yes, all households within Fernandina Beach’s limits were eligible to be selected):

Selecting Survey Recipients

“Sampling” refers to the method by which households were chosen to receive the survey. All households within the City of Fernandina Beach were eligible to participate in the survey. A list of all households within the zip codes serving Fernandina Beach was purchased from Go-Dog Direct based on updated listings from the United States Postal Service. Since some of the zip codes that serve the City of Fernandina Beach households may also serve addresses that lie outside of the community, the exact geographic location of each housing unit was compared to community boundaries using the most current municipal boundary file (updated on a quarterly basis) and addresses located outside of the City of Fernandina Beach boundaries were removed from consideration.

To choose the 2,900 survey recipients, a systematic sampling method was applied to the list of households previously screened for geographic location. Systematic sampling is a procedure whereby a complete list of all possible households is culled, selecting every Nth one, giving each eligible household a known probability of selection, until the appropriate number of households is selected. Multi-family housing units were selected at a higher rate as residents of this type of housing typically respond at lower rates to surveys than do those in single-family housing units. Figure 1 displays a map of the households selected to receive the survey. In general, because of the random sampling techniques used, the displayed sampling density will closely mirror the overall housing unit density (which may be different from the population density). While the theory of probability assumes no bias in selection, there may be some minor variations in practice (meaning, an area with only 15% of the housing units might be selected at an actual rate that is slightly above or below that). An individual within each household was selected using the birthday method. The birthday method selects a person within the household by asking the “person whose birthday has most recently passed” to complete the questionnaire. The underlying assumption in this method is that day of birth has no relationship to the way people respond to surveys. This instruction was contained in the cover letter accompanying the questionnaire. Continue reading

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Back to school and online safety

By Ari Lazarus
FTC Consumer Education Specialist
August 22, 2019 – 4:00 p.m.

Now that summertime is quickly coming to an end, it’s back-to-school season. While you’re running around getting pencils, calculators and binders, remember something else on your back-to-school list: talking with your kids about online safety.

Yes, your kids are probably online all year long – especially since technology is literally in the palms of their hands. But during the school year they have even more places to connect: at the library, in the classroom, at home and especially on their phones.

But there’s good news: it’s easy to have these conversations, even if technology isn’t really your “thing.” Here are a few ways to make these conversations easy and painless.

  • Use everyday opportunities to talk to your kids about being online. For example, news stories about cyberbullying or texting while driving can spur a conversation about their experiences and how you expect them to behave.
  • Clearly communicate your expectations and how they apply in an online context. Sharing your values clearly can help your kids make smarter and more thoughtful decisions when they face tricky situations. For instance, be specific about what’s off-limits — and what you consider to be unacceptable behavior.
  • Resist the urge to rush through these conversations with your kids. Most kids need to hear information repeated, in small doses, for it to sink in. If you keep talking with your kids, your patience and persistence will pay off in the long run.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Even if you find out your kid has done something inappropriate online, listen and consider their feelings. You may not have all the answers but being honest and receptive can go a long way.
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FWC asks public to help document disorder impacting panthers

Reposted August 22, 2019 – 2:30 p.m.

The FWC is investigating a disorder detected in some Florida panthers and bobcats. All the affected animals have exhibited some degree of walking abnormally or difficulty coordinating their back legs.

As of August 2019, the FWC has confirmed neurological damage in one panther and one bobcat. Additionally, trail camera footage has captured eight panthers (mostly kittens) and one adult bobcat displaying varying degrees of this condition. Videos of affected cats were collected from multiple locations in Collier, Lee and Sarasota counties, and at least one panther photographed in Charlotte County could also have been affected. The FWC has been reviewing videos and photographs from other areas occupied by panthers but to date the condition appears to be localized as it is only documented in three general areas.

“While the number of animals exhibiting these symptoms is relatively few, we are increasing monitoring efforts to determine the full scope of the issue.” said Gil McRae, director of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “Numerous diseases and possible causes have been ruled out; a definitive cause has not yet been determined. We’re working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a wide array of experts from around the world to determine what is causing this condition.”

The FWC is testing for various potential toxins, including neurotoxic rodenticide (rat pesticide), as well as infectious diseases and nutritional deficiencies. Continue reading

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Board of County Commissioners supports Dept of Health “Age Friendly Communities” application

By Cindy Jackson
August 22, 2019 1:30 p.m.

Mary Von Mohr with the Nassau County Health Department educates BOCC on Age Friendly Communities.

As described by the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), an Age Friendly Community “or livable communities have walkable streets, housing and transportation options, access to key services and opportunities for residents to participate in community activities. The network encourages states, cities, towns and counties to prepare for the rapid aging of the U.S. population by paying increased attention to the environmental, economic and social factors that influence the health and well-being of older adults.”

Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel and Mary Von Mohr with the Nassau County Health Department made a presentation before the Board of County Commissioners on August 21st with the ultimate goal being that Nassau County could become one of those communities that encourages aging-in-place. Ms. Seidel pointed out that the majority of the Nassau County Continue reading

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Dina Divas deliver!

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 22, 2019 – noon

The City of Fernandina Beach recognized the Elm Street Little League Girls Softball: Major Division, Team “Dina Divas” for outstanding achievement by delivering a Proclamation at the August 20, 2019 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC).  On behalf of the city, Vice Mayor Len Kreger congratulated the team for an exceptional season.  The Dina Divas Major All-Star team competed in three Continue reading

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A city on the edge of Amelia River – An opinion

By Amy Christie Anderson
acatects llc
August 20, 2019
Reposted August 22, 2019

[Note:  This opinion is being reposted due to technical glitches that affected the original post.]

A fine city sits on the edge of Amelia River.

For decades through steadfast efforts, the historic core of Fernandina has been stabilized, yet the waterfront remains a challenge. Given a very long history of ruthless use of the River for commercial gain, with blunt evidence of ecological harm, a slow transformation of the waterfront is to be expected. Many have devoted countless hours to define a much needed public park. Others hope for a working riverfront. A compelling vision for a generous waterfront has been elusive.

2008 despite a global economic low point, seems now a blissfully innocent year for waterfront planning. 2012 less so, after Hurricane Sandy devastated seaward communities in the Northeast. In 2016 Matthew arrived, in 2017 Irma. These two extreme weather events brought home to Fernandina
the threat of sea level rise. It is clear that after Matthew and Irma the framework for planning is vastly changed.

Older waterfronts might offer solutions. Comparisons have been made with Saint Marys Georgia, Kissimmee Florida and Beaufort South Carolina, but differences abound. None have close proximity to major industrial operations such as a Port and two Mills. None have a city-owned, debt-saddled but vital Marina. Even more, the examples have dissimilar shoreline settings. Kissimmee is on an inland lake. Beaufort is on a cove of a tributary river twelve miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The impact and magnitude of sea action is not
the same on these sites.

As our team reviewed the original Request for Expression of Continue reading

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Westrock, city brief FBCC on recent wastewater issues

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 22, 2019

Daniel C. Rowland, Westroock mill manager

At the beginning of the August 20, 2018 Regular Meeting of the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC), both Westrock and the city spent considerable time putting rumors to rest and addressing public concerns over the reported chemical spill into the city’s sanitary sewer system that occurred August 13.  Due to quick action of city Wastewater Treatment employees and supervisors along with full cooperation from Westrock, the problem was quickly identified and remedied.  By Monday morning, city sanitary sewer service had been restored to Westrock and the ph of the city’s wastewater treatment areas had returned to safer levels.

Daniel C. Rowland, General Manger of Westrock’s Fernandina Beach plant, addressed the FBCC to explain what happened, corrective measures taken and preventive actions to guard against future releases.  City Utilities Director John Mandrick lauded Westrock’s full cooperation and explained the redundancies built into the city’s treatment processes that prevented disaster.  Commissioners were effusive in their praise for the efforts of city employees who worked over the weekend to contain the damage and rectify problems

John Mandrick, city Utilities Department director

Both Rowland and Mandrick agreed that the problem was caused by an accident.  A faulty gauge caused the release of excessive amounts of alum (ammonium sulfate) into the city’s sanitary sewer line.  Ammonium sulfate is an inorganic salt with many commercial purposes.  Like lime, it lowers alkalinity in soils; but excessive amounts in the wastewater treatment process can interfere with the bacterial process that break down organic waste.  If those bacteria die off as a result, it can take 20 days for new bacteria to activate, meaning that the discharge of safe wastewater into the Amelia River could be compromised.

Mandrick said that city supplies of chemical to counteract the effects of the ammonium sulfate were insufficient to address the problem, but that Westrock had immediately stepped up sending 2,000 pounds of soda ash from their own supplier in Jacksonville that arrived on the same day as the spill.  An additional 7,000 pounds of soda ash was delivered from Atlanta.  “Without that,” Mandrick said, “we would not have been able to neutralize the ammonium sulfate online.”

Mandrick said, “There was no intentional dumping, and we [city and Westrock] worked well together to respond to the accident.”  Mandrick continued, explaining that because the city has a spare treatment train, his team was able to switch the city’s normal waste to the seond train, thereby containing the spill. Continue reading

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Thinking about running for Fernandina Beach City Commission?

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
August 22, 2019 – 10:00 a.m.

As expected, the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) unanimously approved Resolution 2019-135 at its August 20, 2019 Regular Meeting.  This Resolution established the official qualifying dates of July 13, 2020, through July 17, 2020 for the 2020 City of Fernandina Beach General Election, which will be held on November 3, 2020.  

The Qualifying Period is the window of time for candidates to pay fees and file required paperwork and with the City Clerk.  Any potential candidate who has not qualified by either paying a Qualifying Fee of $360 or provided 108 valid petitions prior to noon on Friday, July 3, 2019, is ineligible to seek elected office in the city in 2020.

All candidates must pay the Election Assessment Fee of $120.

The 2020 Election marks the first time that three City Commissioners will be selected by the voters.  The change in terms from three to four years was approved by the voters in 2013, but it was phased in over time.  Commissioners Phil Chapman and Chip Ross are the last two commissioners who were elected to three year terms.  With the change in term length, city commission terms are now in sync with terms of County Commissioners and School Board Members.

Of the three seats that will be contested in 2020, at least two will have no incumbent commissioner.  Mayor-Commissioner John Miller will have completed two 4-year terms and by City Charter may not seek reelection at this time.  Commissioner Phil Chapman has indicated he does not choose to pursue reelection.  Only Commissioner Chip Ross has yet to indicate whether he will or will not seek reelection.  Vice Mayor Len Kreger and Commissioner Mike Lednovich, who were elected to their seats in 2018, will continue to serve and will be eligible to be considered for the position of Mayor on the straw ballot, also conducted at the time of the General Election.

City Attorney Tammi Bach attempted to clear up confusion over how soon candidates may formally declare their intention to run.  The bottom line is that as soon as an individual opens a campaign account, s/he can start collecting petitions, raising money and campaigning.  There is no need to wait until the Qualifying Period.

For complete information on becoming a candidate in the City of Fernandina Beach, visit the City Clerk’s website and follow up with City Clerk Caroline Best at (904) 310-3115 or email [email protected].

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