BOCC asked to increase taxes to support city facilities

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  • Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin addresses the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners.  Gary D. Morgan/For the News-Leader
    Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin addresses the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners. Gary D. Morgan/For the News-Leader
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Dale Martin, the city manager of Fernandina Beach, wants half a million dollars more every year to help fund parks and recreational facilities in the city and suggested Monday that the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners slightly raise property taxes countywide to get it.

Martin appeared before the BOCC to ask for the supplemental funding, saying it would only be used for capital facilities.

A letter dated June 30 requests “$500,000 for renovation and repairs to City recreational facilities, specifically the Atlantic Recreation Center, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center, (both built in the 1950’s) and Central Park.” He noted many recreational facilities in the city are utilized by both city and non-city residents and “the facilities are demonstrated to be somewhat antiquated, obsolete, out of date and in need of upkeep maintenance and environmental sustainability.”

He also listed the Peck Center, which serves as a community center for some non-profits, as well as the Main Beach boardwalk, North Beach Park, and Seaside Park, which the city specifically plans to re-deck and upgrade.

Martin also discussed the city’s soccer and baseball fields, saying there is anecdotal evidence that 90% of requests for the soccer fields come from county residents.

“With the growth that’s going on, not only in the city, on the island and throughout the county, our facilities are currently being strained by the number of users and it may get to the point where if we don’t have adequate funding to expand or maintain the facilities our user charges may need to reflect whether you are a city on non-city resident. The surcharge that currently is 25% may have to be substantially increased.”

Martin suggests a relatively small “county-wide levy, levied at 1/10th a mil over 19 years” would get the city the money he says it needs. Martin said at a conservative 3% growth rate over 19 years, the city would get $11 million and the county $13 million. The example Martin used was for a property with a taxable value of $100,000 this year. After 19 years, the owner would have paid $250, and with a taxable value this year of $200,000, they would have paid $500.

Martin said by increasing property taxes this way the city could “theoretically do away with city and non-city rates.”

Board Chairman Danny Leeper asked a number of questions, including where the $500,000 figure came from.

“Some of the capital projects that were originally included in the budget that we subsequently cut out of the budget,” Martin responded. “It was $320,000 alone for Buccaneer fencing. There were boardwalk, Seaside Park, soccer concessions, (and) upgrades at the softball fields, and yes, we have the data that for the most part it is roughly a 50-50 split between city and non-city residents that can be demonstrated. For the most part, the user fees that are charged actually go to the leagues and not necessarily the city.”

Leeper said he is “hopeful” about the city and the county working together.

Fernandina Beach Vice Mayor Len Kreger and city commissioners Dr. Chip Ross, Phil Chapman and Mike Lednovich spoke in support of a working partnership and to reiterate the lack of affordability and non-sustainability of maintaining the facilities and services of parks and recreation as they are today.

The BOCC then conducted a public hearing on creating an American Beach water and sewer district, which would have its own governing board.

County Manager and Attorney Mike Mullin said the governing body of the new district would be the BOCC itself, with “at a later time, an advisory board.”

There were a number of emails and speakers expressing support for the creation of the district.

Tony Nelson, Erving Gilyard, American Beach Property Owners’ Association Inc. President Joyce Jefferson, Tony Brown, and Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. rose to say they are in favor of it.

The ordinance unanimously approved included a Community Advisory Board that would be created in the next 60 days. The speakers were clear in thanking the board and the employees of the county for their work.

The following agenda items were also unanimously approved:

• Finance Package 2020-20 and associated Resolutions. This included “a Budget Amendment in the Municipal Fund for donations received by Nassau County Animal Services in the amount of $434.00 and a Budget Amendment in the EMS Grant fund for unanticipated interest in FY19/20 in the amount of $34.00.”

• Minutes from the regular and workshop session held on June 8, 2020; the regular sessions held on June 17 and 22, 2020; and the special sessions held on June 3, 10, and 24, 2020.”

• A request to hold a Hope Walk for Huntington’s Disease on the beach between Peters Point and Scott Road on Saturday, Oct. 24.

• Leeper signing a Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Program Acceptance of Federal Funding Assistance form, associated Budget Amendment and authorize staff to submit the acceptance electronically. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has awarded the county a 2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) Grant in the amount of $177,236 that will be used by the Department of Emergency Management for preparation, prevention and response efforts related to the coronavirus pandemic. The grant application was signed June 24.

• A Small-Scale Future Land Use Map amendment changing the classification of 1.47 acres located on the west side of Chester Road, between Lee Road and Miller Road from Medium Density Residential (MDR) to Commercial (COM). The application was filed by The Jones Company, owner, and Concept Development Inc., agent.

• A public hearing on an ordinance restricting the operation of electric bicycles.

• Abandoning a right-of-way located at the east end of Clements Road.

• Rezoning 0.79 acre located on the west side of U.S. 1, between Pickett Street and Danielle Lane, from Open Rural (OR) to Commercial, Professional and Office (CPO). The application was filed by Joey and Jodie Hearn of Callahan.

Other items that were considered and unanimously approved were:

• Withdrawing an item referring to a maintenance map for O’Neil-Scott Road at the recommendation of the county staff. Mullin said that was due to a pending lawsuit. The commissioners voted unanimously to withdraw the request.

• A public hearing on an ordinance
establishing wrecker and towing rates was continued to Oct. 26.

• Withdrawing an application to rezone approximately 53.88 acres located on the north side of Roses Bluff, between Brooker Road and Haven Road, from Open Rural (OR) to Residential Single Family 1 (RS-1). The application was filed by WFS Family Trust, LLC, owner, and SEDA Construction Co., agent.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve a resolution proclaiming September as Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month along with the recognition of the Trinity Love Hoblit Foundation for its efforts in raising awareness in Nassau County. For more information on the Foundation, go to trinityhoblit.org.

In the final portion of the meeting, Leeper asked for individual commissioner comments. Leeper and Commissioner Justin Taylor discussed ongoing duties that will need to be reassigned since they both leave the commission in November. Taylor spoke about the Essential Housing Advisory Committee that he has chaired. Commissioner Tom Ford volunteered to assume the responsibility and was approved.

Leeper discussed his role on the Florida Association of Counties. Ford also took on this duty.

Leeper mentioned the Small County Coalition that would need two members. Ford and Commissioner Aaron Bell were unanimously approved for the assignments. Leeper also said a replacement for him would be needed on the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization. Leeper suggested Ford, who accepted and was unanimously approved for the position.

Bell commended the Nassau County School Board and Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathy Burns for the work completed in preparing and opening the schools. He also suggested that an item be added to the agenda for September regarding selecting a new chairman of the board.