MAB wants to keep Westrec

  • The Fernandina Harbor Marina is currently managed by Westrec Marinas. The fuel dock was damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. A new fuel dock is under construction now. ROBERT FIEGE/NEWS-LEADER
    The Fernandina Harbor Marina is currently managed by Westrec Marinas. The fuel dock was damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. A new fuel dock is under construction now. ROBERT FIEGE/NEWS-LEADER

Marina Advisory Board member Joe Blanchard said the Fernandina Beach City Commission’s decision to award a contract to Oasis Marinas to manage the Fernandina Harbor Marina next year is par for the course: the commission made the decision despite MAB members recommending letting Westrec continue managing the marina for another year after repairs are finished, so the city can see how the company does with a fully functional marina.

The marina is undergoing upgrades and repairs to damage resulting from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and does not yet have fueling services. The marina’s fuel dock is under construction now. Concerns have been raised about Westrec’s performance, especially in the area of maintenance, and their contract ends in December of this year.

The city issued a Request For Proposals for companies to manage or lease the marina and received five submissions. The final decision will rest with the City Commission after it receives a report from a newly formed evaluation committee.

The decision to enter contract negotiations with Oasis was made without the submitted proposals being evaluated by a committee, a process required by the RFP. City Manager Dale Martin had the proposals reviewed by consulting firm Stantec instead. Stantec recommended Oasis based on financial concerns. Martin reconsidered his decision and formed the committee.

The new committee is made up of City Attorney Tammi Bach, Airport Manager Nathan Coyle, and Comptroller Pauline Testergrose. They attended the July 27 meeting of the MAB in order to get their input regarding the selection of a marina management company.

A timeline for the new process was shared with the MAB: Aug. 6 at 10 a.m. – a meeting of the committee at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club for discussion and scoring of the RFP responses; Aug. 7 –scores will be distributed to the MAB; Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. – a meeting of the MAB at City Hall to discuss the scores; Aug. 18 – the City Commission should make a decision.

Coyle told the MAB the proposals would be scored on technical and management capabilities as well as financial considerations. MAB members voiced concerns that no one on the evaluation committee has any experience in marinas and the two-week timeline for a recommendation was short. Coyle said that was why the committee was addressing the MAB, to get their expertise.

Westrec did not provide a proposal in response to the RFP and Marina Manager Joe Springer, who is a Westrec employee, explained why.

“It was said that we declined to come do a presentation,” Springer said. “We were never asked to do a presentation. It’s not a question of what we were doing or not doing. It was what we were led to believe was going to happen. Originally, it was said all the proposals would be opened up, they would get recorded, go to the city manager for his review, the city manager was going to send them to Stantec for their review, he was going to get them back on Friday, June 12, and the following week, he would bring Westrec in to discuss what he had found out about those proposals to see if there was any change. As it turned out, we were given all the proposals and asked who we would like to see take our place, basically. Then (Westrec Vice President of Business Development) Mr. Fry wrote a letter saying all the companies are good, but the whole thing is, make it fair. You’ve seen one presentation.”

Springer said the decision made by Stantec to recommend Oasis was based on faulty data.

“Stantec’s numbers were wrong,” he said. “They didn’t add up. People are using numbers, but nowhere did Stantec say, ‘This is how we arrived at these numbers.’ I’ve gone back to our budgets and done a massive spreadsheet, trying to come up with the numbers that Stantec is showing. I can’t figure out how they did it.”

“For an advisory board, we pretty much stay in the dark,” Blanchard said.

Chair Kevin McCarthy joked that the board should recommend the opposite of what they actually think, using reverse psychology to get the City Commission to make decisions based on their recommendations.

MAB member Allen Mills believes Westrec has performed well, making the Fernandina Harbor Marina “one of the best in Northeast Florida.” Blanchard and member Gerry Decker said they do not think the marina is in crisis mode and do not understand the urgency to choose a new management company.

“I’m pleased now that we are going to have some input,” McCarthy said. “We were a little blindsided by the last meeting. I hope you got some good understanding about how we feel.”