MAB questions points in Oasis contract

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  • As the attenuator at the Fernandina Harbor Marina moves up and down with the tide, pieces of Styrofoam are visible, which appear to be from underneath the attenuator. JULIA ROBERTS/NEWS-LEADER
    As the attenuator at the Fernandina Harbor Marina moves up and down with the tide, pieces of Styrofoam are visible, which appear to be from underneath the attenuator. JULIA ROBERTS/NEWS-LEADER
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The Marina Advisory Board has some issues with a contract for marina management services that is set to be approved next week by the Fernandina Beach City Commission and are sending questions to the commission ahead of the vote to approve the contract.

Westrec Marinas currently manages the Fernandina Harbor Marina, but Oasis Marinas is set to take over that job by Dec. 1.

At the Oct. 26 regular meeting of the advisory board, a draft contract was discussed by the board and two city commissioners who were present at the meeting – Chip Ross and Mike Lednovich. Advisory board member Scott Stewart led the discussion, going through a list of concerns. However, the draft of the contract that was provided to the advisory board was not the final draft that will go before the City Commission at its Nov. 4 meeting. The final draft appears to address some of Stewart’s concerns and can viewed at https://bit.ly/35IglBc.

Many of the advisory board’s members own businesses that operate at the marina and expressed unease regarding dockage rates mentioned in the Oasis contract, which reads, “Oasis will set the rates for the boat slip rentals and linear feet space rentals based on commercially fair and marketable rates, subject to approval by the City in the annual (b)udget.”

Stewart said he understands Oasis can adjust slip rentals according to market conditions but said allowing the company to change rates not just for transient boaters but also for permanent slip holders – such as business owners operating at the marina – could potentially make doing business at the Fernandina Harbor Marina impossible.

“We asked the city manager to put some limitations on the amount of dockage rate increases, instead of just giving them carte blanche,” Stewart said. “They still have carte blanche. (The city) gave (Oasis) the ability to change the variable transient rate that they had requested, which is a good idea. I’m not fighting that at all. But I don’t think they should be able to change the rest of the rates as they want to throughout the year. Even though I know the marina is in the business of trying to make money, you need some stability there.”

“I understood Oasis’ argument that, when they have transient traffic at the peak of the season, we should increase the rates and make as much money as we can,” said advisory board Chairman Kevin McCarthy, who owns and operates Amelia River Cruises. “Those fluctuating rates that would give (the ability to) Oasis to do, willy-nilly, what they want, should only be for transients, not the permanent slip holders. It’s going to be hard for us to make plans for the future. What could happen (is that) Oasis could increase our rates (and) run us off during transient season so they could fill those slips with higher-dollar boats. We could only operate during the slow season.”

McCarthy also questioned the ratio of slips available to transients to slips reserved for permanent slip holders. Stewart said he asked that question when negotiations with Oasis began. The matter is not addressed in the contract.

Stewart voiced concerns about revenue from services such as pump outs, subcontractors operating at the marina, and ship chandlers, about subleasing space and how utility bills will be divided.

Stewart also said there should be a requirement for a preventative maintenance schedule in the maintenance section of the contract because maintenance was a major concern with Westrec. Referring to his own business, McCarthy said, “I live by a maintenance schedule.”

“I’m just bringing up points because we can’t really do anything here anyway,” Stewart said, referring to the point that the advisory board only has the power to advise the City Commission and cannot create or change policy.

“I don’t think what we are asking is unreasonable by any means,” McCarthy said.

Lednovich and Ross suggested advisory board members put their concerns in an email to the City Commission ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. Stewart said it might be too late for the advisory board to bring concerns to the commission if the negotiations on the contract are finalized. “It’s never too late,” Lednovich told him.

A list of projects currently underway at the marina – including replacement of fuel lines at the marina’s fueling station – was also on the agenda for Monday’s meeting. Sales of fuel are a major income stream for the marina, but fuel sales ceased after Hurricane Matthew destroyed the station in 2016. The replacement of fueling services hit a snag when testing showed leaks in the fuel lines, leading to a decision that the lines would have to be replaced.

According to Lednovich, the cost of replacing those lines is $200,000, which means it passes the threshold that would require the project to be put out for bid. However, Lednovich said the City Commission could declare the situation an emergency, allowing the city to bypass the bidding process and awarding the work to the contractor currently working at the marina. If that does happen, fuel could be flowing by sometime in December; otherwise, the bid process could push a reopening of the fuel station out to February, Lednovich said.

Stewart brought up several problems he sees in the construction at the marina, including the attenuator in the northern basin not being level and Styrofoam coming out of old pilings. He said the southern basin, which was reconfigured in order to reduce silting and the need for dredging, is already filling with silt.

Lednovich told the advisory board that members should send a list of issues they believe should be addressed to the City Commission.