New marina management will be Oasis

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  • Julia Roberts/News-Leader Some docks on the northern basin of the Fernandina Harbor Marina are closed to eliminate any confusion on the part of boaters, according to Marina Manager Joe Spring, who said having the docks open gives the impression that the fueling station, located in the northern basin, is also open. No fuel has been sold since Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016.  Julia Roberts/News-Leader
    Julia Roberts/News-Leader Some docks on the northern basin of the Fernandina Harbor Marina are closed to eliminate any confusion on the part of boaters, according to Marina Manager Joe Spring, who said having the docks open gives the impression that the fueling station, located in the northern basin, is also open. No fuel has been sold since Hurricane Matthew hit in October 2016. Julia Roberts/News-Leader
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Oasis Marinas is “over the moon” about the opportunity to manage the Fernandina Harbor Marina after the Fernandina Beach City Commission voted unanimously to award a contract to the company at its Sept. 1 meeting.

“I fell in love with Fernandina when I first visited five years ago,” Oasis Vice President of Business Development Brian Arnold told the News-Leader. “We are over the moon excited for this opportunity.”

The contract was awarded to Oasis once before after the company responded to a Request For Proposals from the city, but the city did not follow the process set forth in city purchasing policies, so the award was reconsidered. After the proposals were evaluated by a city-appointed committee, the committee recommended Oasis out of four proposals that were submitted. The city’s Marina Advisory Board recommended that the company currently managing the marina, Westrec Marinas, stay in place until the marina has been repaired and is fully operational with fueling services in place. The City Commission still approved awarding the contract to Oasis.

The contract between Westrec and the city requires either party to give a 90-day notice if the contract is canceled, so the earliest Oasis could take over the marina is Dec. 1.

One of Oasis’ strongest selling points is marketing. The company owns Snag-A-Slip, a service that connects boaters to marinas in order to book boat slip rentals, and Marinalife magazine. Arnold said a marketing plan for Fernandina Harbor Marina is already in the works, and that boaters will be able to use Snag-A-Slip as soon as Oasis takes over the 

marina.

“We are looking at a possible fall start date, which is the migration time for boaters coming south,” Arnold said, adding that Oasis has already begun preparing to market the Fernandina Harbor Marina by building a new website and reaching out to Fernandina Beach Main Street to market the city as an attraction.

Arnold said Oasis “is not in the business of putting people out of work” and will meet with and interview the four full-time and four part-time Westrec employees at the marina and “onboard folks who are a great fit.” He said he hopes to take advantage of the experience and knowledge of the marina the Westrec employees could bring to the table.

Current Marina Manager and Westrec employee Joe Springer said, “We wish Oasis great success and will assist them in any way we can.”

Also at the Sept. 1 meeting, the City Commission voted unanimously to extend its emergency mask order requiring masks to be worn indoors to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. That order will now be in place until at least Oct. 6.

Commissioner Chip Ross said there is a possibility the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners will not extend its emergency order, which is set to run out at the same time as the city’s order.

Lednovich said the city must use its own judgment. “We can’t just throw up our hands and say, ‘Oh well,’” Lednovich said.

It was noted that cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, are increasing in Nassau County, and Lednovich said that number can be expected to spike after the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Lednovich also noted B&B Theatres Amelia Island 7 is reopening, and said it will be difficult to enforce mask and social distancing guidelines inside a movie theater.

The city closed its athletic fields in March due to the pandemic, but after receiving requests from various youth sports leagues to use the fields, created a policy requiring leagues to submit a plan to the city’s Parks & Recreation Department that addresses coronavirus and how teams will enforce guidelines. Amelia Island Youth Soccer has submitted a plan that’s being evaluated by Parks & Recreation.

Commissioner Phil Chapman repeated what he has said at previous meetings – that guidelines are useless if the city does not enforce them. He said other countries and some businesses do, and that the city should as well.

Ross, who is an emergency room physician, said that people refuse to wear a mask even in the hospital, and it “is impossible to police it.”

Lednovich said he believes that if the city passes an additional emergency order, it should give additional enforcement power to the city’s 35 police and two code enforcement officers.

City Manager Dale Martin told the commission that eight Fernandina Beach firefighters have tested positive for the coronavirus and are in quarantine.

Arlene Filkoff, executive director of Fernandina Beach Main Street, gave the organization’s quarterly report to the commission. Filkoff said Main Street has been working to bring attention and people to the downtown through virtual and in-person events as well as online marketing. She said three businesses have recently closed, and while the effect of the coronavirus on business was not the only factor that made owners decide to close, it was a “trigger.” All
three of those locations on Centre Street have been filled, Filkoff said, and there are several vacant locations on the side streets and a list of business
owners who want to occupy them, so she is “playing matchmaker” to put businesses in those locations.

Filkoff is set to retire at the end of the year, and said the Main Street board is working to find a replacement executive director. That process has resulted in finding a candidate, and the organization is currently in negotiations with them. Filkoff said she will stay with Main Street in a limited capacity until the end of the year to help the new director.

Main Street will implement a membership and community support program, Filkoff said. Memberships are $100, and members with a downtown business will have their business on downtown signage and maps. Main Street will be accepting donations of any size, and those community members who donate will be thanked on the website, fernandinabeachmainstreet.com.

The commission approved, on a split vote, to negotiate with Silling Architects to perform an assessment of the current City Hall and evaluate whether a new facility is needed.

Lednovich said that, in the face of the financial situation created by the pandemic, “the optics are horrible” for considering building a new city hall, or renovating the current one.

Vice Mayor Len Kreger agreed, noting the city has recently renovated the Building Department and could relocate some offices to the city-owned Peck Center, which houses some city offices such as city attorney and fire chief.

Ross said the current city hall is dilapidated and in need of repair.

“We hire consultants when we don’t have the money to pay for the projects,” Lednovich said, to which Ross countered hiring consultants is how the city determines how much money is needed for a project.

The agreement was approved 3-2, with Lednovich and Kreger casting the dissenting votes.

Genece Minshew, a City Commission candidate, brought a video to the commission meeting that showed problems at Beach Access 40 on South Fletcher Avenue. The video depicted a washout of the access, which crews had apparently filled in with black dirt that contained trash such as cigarette butts and plastic. When it rains, the video showed, the access gets washed out, creating a gully of several inches, a hazard for people walking to the beach.

Martin contacted the Parks & Recreation Department during the meeting and assured Minshew the problem would be taken care of using appropriate materials instead of the material shown in the video.

Kevin Leary spoke to the commission about three sea turtle nests that hatched near Main Beach. He said the hatchlings from those nests were disoriented by lights from a lodge in the area. He asked the commission for better enforcement of ordinances governing lights that are visible from the beach.

In other business, the City Commission:

• Awarded an RFP to eight companies to provide on-call arborist services;

• Approved a $10,753 change order with Marina Utilities for electronic parts, displays and panels;

• Approved a contract with Jacobs, Scholz and Wyler for lobbying services for $6,250 per month, not to exceed $75,000 per fiscal year, plus travel expenses up to $10,000;

• Approved temporary easements for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for staging and mobilization of equipment at the city’s Dolphin Street parking lot for the beach renourishment project;

• Awarded a bid to Johnson Home Builders in the amount of $277,800 for construction of the Toptracer facility at the Fernandina Beach Golf Club;

• Approved, on first reading, a pay and classification plan for fiscal year 2020-21; and

• Approved, on second reading, amendments to the Future Land Use Map and zoning maps for one 22.5 acre city-owned property and one 6.07 acre property owned by the Ocean Highway and Port Authority to give those properties Conservation or Recreation status.