The headline on the lead story on the front page of the local bi-weekly News-Leader last Friday, February 17, blared “City weighs sale of Amelia River golf property.” It quoted Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin, and Airport Advisory Chairman Sam Lane, but nowhere in the story was a member of the Amelia River Golf Club’s 70-year lease holder, Amelia Island Hospitality Group quoted or even mentioned.
In fact, the story apparently took The Sheffield family group’s Amelia Island Hospitality Group (AIHG) by surprise as no sooner had it appeared than the following letter was sent to all Amelia River Golf Club members:
Dear Amelia River Golf Club Members:
We are sure most of you have seen the recent article in the News-Leader regarding the City’s interest in purchasing our leasehold interest. We were approached by the City several months ago about purchasing the course and we will begin discussions in early March with City officials in an effort to reach mutually agreed upon terms. Should those negotiations be unsuccessful, we intend to vigorously defend our position as the rightful leaseholder.
If the City does secure ARGC, we cannot speculate on what their actions would be in the future. We strongly urge the City to preserve ARGC and close the City course if they in fact wish to stay in the golf business.
In the meantime, we pledge to sustain the course in the tremendous shape that you all have come to enjoy. In addition, our staff continues to work hard for each of you and we will keep you informed as future developments occur.
Thank you for your patience and support of ARGC.
The Sheffield Family
From what I have been told no one from the News Leader contacted the Sheffield Group for comment and they are disappointed the issue has gone public.
Wasn’t that generous of the city and the News-Leader to tell potential members of the Amelia River Club that its future may be unknown? I’m sure that’ll generate a rash of new affiliates.
According to the Michael Miller bylined News-Leader article the city wants to sell the property and use the funds to help build the new terminal and/or welcome center or whatever it is the city wants to erect at the airport that will not be used by anybody but a handful of private airplane pilots.
This airport building lunacy is expected to cost between $2-5 million and I wonder how much of the tax payer’s money the city is willing to spend to buy out the 52-years remaining on on the Amelia River Golf Club lease?
I’ve submitted a list of questions about the airport issue to City Manager Martin this past Wednesday and will share his responses when I receive his answers.
Of all the comments about the airport issue in last week’s blog only one, from former interim city manager Dave Lott, attempted to justify the new airport building. I very much respect Dave and normally agree with his comments. However, on this issue I don’t.
I do not see how this airport building can possibly be justified and from what I’ve been reading and hearing I’m not the only one, as even former members of the airport commission are opposed to it. Why do we need a $2-5 million building to impress a handful of pilots who don’t shop here or stay here? Maybe the city needs a place to store its extorted impact fees.
Oh, and what the hell is the city doing in the golf course business anyway? If should sell its 27-hole course on Bill Melton Road and get out of the golf business altogether. If I’m going wrong here somebody tell me why.
Semper Fidelis: The full house attending the European American Business Club’s February 21 evening session at the Amelia River Golf Club heard a talk from local resident Cal Atwood, that had them laughing, applauding, gasping and dabbing away tears. Mr. Atwood, a 92-year-old Marine Corps veteran who parachuted onto Iwo Jima as a 20-year-old in 1945 and was eventually evacuated after being wounded, is not only a hardened combat vet, but a renown poet, educator and husband other wives could only hope their spouses would emulate. Age hasn’t slowed the mentally and physically agile Atwood down as in a voice as authoritative and clear as a Marine Corps Drill Instructor, he sat straight as an arrow as he regaled the attentive full house with stories about his marine corps comrades, read poems he recently wrote, and paid tribute to his gorgeous and gracious wife, Carol Ann. At the end the raconteur received a well-deserved standing ovation. The Marauders, a group of about 20 local golfers that includes Pound Puppy founder Mike Bowling, and have been called “rowdy, obstreperous, fun-loving and ready to jump into a well-intended benefit to support Marine Toys For Tots, Navy Seals and the Fernandina Beach Museum golf tournaments, among others,” presented Cal with a plaque making the “Jarhead” a lifelong member. If you ever hear that Cal is going to talk at an event near you, made a reservation as it is an occasion you will not want to miss. I’m honored to call this fine gentleman my friend.
“No Fair! He Hit Me With A Right Hook:” Just how goofy have things become on college campuses was demonstrated by a student group at Orlando’s University of Central Florida, which hosted a “leftist fight club” to train liberal students to defend themselves against Trump supporters and “other Alt-Right Neo-Nazis.” An amateur boxer demonstrated hand-to-hand combat techniques, and the clinic was billed as open to “everyone except Republicans.” Maybe parents of Young GOPers should counterpunch by pulling junior out of school there and sending him to a campus where he might get an education instead of an indoctrination and an audition for reality TV.
And It’s A Short Drive: Donald Trump is driving the left insane and if you don’t believe it just tune into National Public Radio (WJCT, 89.9 FM) and listen to those unhinged folks howl at the moon. Then log onto your computer and check out Facebook where every liberal acquaintance you know spends their every spare minute screeching away at their fellow travelers with anti Trump bilge. These loons will eventually fade way once they realize their childish rants are leading nowhere, much like now “former” NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who is no longer under contract after parting ways with the San Francisco 49ers. This no talent lout got worse with every passing season, sending the 49ers to the bottom and following an injury and some serious downtime, he turned radical and went anti-police, pro Black Lives Matter, and anti-Trump ultimately leading to his silent protest of refusing to stand during the national anthem. That, and the fact he stinks as a player, spelled the end of his career. What team would possible want this cretin on their roster or in its locker room? Just think how productive these misguided misfits would be if they put this much energy and time into working at their jobs, furthering their education, working for a charity, running for office or some other worthwhile endeavor. Their anger is fueled by the fact that the Democratic party today has less direct influence on American government at all levels than at any time since Reconstruction, just after the Civil War. At the rate they’re going they should be extinct in about four years.
Things I Just Learned Department: There are only nine more days for hunters to bag their limit of squirrels in Florida as squirrel hunting season here ends March 5. Does that mean I can pick them off my bird feeder with a pellet gun and if so what side dish goes best with these expired furry rodents?
Roses and A Stink Bomb: I very much like and respect Susan Steger, former Fernandina Beach City Commissioner and mayor, and co-founder and editor of the very informative online newspaper Fernandina Observer. Despite not having a journalism background Ms. Steger’s news blog factually and accurately reports local news and forced the local biweekly News-Leader print publication to awaken from its news gathering hibernation and scramble to try and keep up. I don’t see or hear much about her co-editor, Douglas Newton, very often, but he’s obviously doing something right too as the publication appears to be steadily picking up ad revenues and is considered a go-to source for folks looking for accurate local news.
Retired banker and area native Ms. Steger is a keen observer and careful to avoid partisan politics carefully screening those contributors that screech and rant about one political party or another and shriek “Trump – Not my President” or “lock-her-up.” If you want local news, reported fairly and factually, the Observer is the place to go. I’ve also found it a valuable source for facts to back up some of my commentaries on this blog and when I use material from the Observer, I give it credit.
The Observer’s Suanne Thamm may possibly be one of the finest political analysts and writers I’ve run across and Adam Kaufman provides expert reporting on legal matters. His series on the Impact Fees trial in late 2014 was exceptionally well done. Former out-of-state journalists Anne Oman and Karen Thompson also contribute and are excellent writers and story tellers and assets to any news gathering enterprise.
However, there comes a time when, despite her superior efforts to date that Ms. Steger fails in her selection of external reporting sources.
For example the Florida Times-Union once had a reporter, Matt Pittman (Matt About Jax), who wrote about restaurants in that paper’s circulation area, mostly Jacksonville establishments. Mr. Pittman, much to my delight, has disappeared from the restaurant review pages of the T-U. He never met a plate of food, a burger, sandwich, hot dog or any other edible item that sat in front of him that he didn’t rave about. This guy knew as much about food as Flossy the Wonder Chicken and according to him all the restaurants in the area were “really great ones.” A local magazine, the Amelia Islander, features a food “critic” who also isn’t critical, but since that publication is a forum for ads from local eateries and other establishments, serious criticism would result in lost revenue. You know what you’re getting when you pick up the give-away Islander.
The Observer’s “Roving Reporter” Gerry Clare is an example of an Observer correspondent who desperately wants to write interesting and informative articles, but is obviously incapable of realizing her aspirations. Her disjointed ramblings read like a third grader’s “What I did on my summer vacation” report while her restaurant reviews consist of a bizarre inventory of locations she considers eateries and fare that she discovered under movie theater seats, in local dumpsters and compost piles.
Her most recent review February 8 began by describing to Fernandina Beach Observer readers how much she enjoyed eating at Collage, a restaurant in St. Augustine, some 90 miles from Fernandina Beach. Apparently it hit the “Roving Correspondent” during dinner that she was no longer on Amelia Island as she wrote: “Eating at Collage was such a delightful experience (60 Hypolita Street) that I realized I haven’t been covering the new eating places in Fernandina recently.”
She then proceeded to list a series of “exciting new places” on Amelia Island that included a home furnishings shop, a health care facility and a men’s clothing store, for all those locals that enjoy noshing on home furnishings, men’s clothing and various medical paraphernalia. And when she actually did mention a restaurant, it was a wacky dog’s breakfast that hardly made a prospective reader want to open his wallet much less his mouth there. Facts that she actually got right in a couple of the items she described were a year or more old and details about others were just flat out wrong. Her list of “exciting new arrivals” failed to mention PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden, Lagniappe, Pogo’s, 801 Kitchen & Bar, Sadler Ranch, Locals, Salt Life, Decantery, the new Sadler/Fletcher Ave. and North 2nd Street boutique hotels with their bars and restaurants, and the renovated 14th street movie theatre with food and booze.(For details on those establishments go to this blog January 13, 2017, “2017 To Be Year Of Restaurants & Bars”). Other than that…..
At the end of her periodic word jumbles, Ms. Clare is described in an “Editor’s Note” as follows: “…… began free lance writing for fun.” She may be writing for fun, but I doubt Observer readers are sharing her amusement. They deserve better.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: If you want to have a fun time tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 25, then head downtown for the annual Chili Cook-Off with tasting from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and other stuff til 3 p.m. This event is well worth the $10 entry fee that includes live music, stuff for junior to do, crafts, and enough chili to send you to CVS for a large supply of antacid tablets. The entry fee money goes to help support the Amelia Island Montessori School. Oh, make sure you stop by the Pajama-Wrecker Chili booth in front of Pajamadave’s Pajama Life shop where Mr. Pajamapants and I have teamed up to serve a News-Wrecker/Pajama Life chili that’s sure to rake in all the top awards. We even have our own private surprise musician, beer stash and more. And talk to Pajamadave about his new PJD’s Beer & Wine Bar to be located directly behind the Pajama-Wrecker Chili Booth and possibly opening this March. I’ll be the cripple with the broken leg in the wheelchair and we’re providing bribes and looking for sympathy votes. Following the cook-off head over to the North 3rd Street Green Turtle from 3-6 pm for the Humane Society’s Mardi Paws event featuring more food, a full bar and live music where a lot of the money goes to help out Fluffy and Fido, a down-on-their-luck canine and feline couple. I’m told that The Decantery, the wine and cheese emporium that was scheduled to open in the empty Dog Star location on North 2nd Street, will now take over the Sheffield’s Cocktail Lounge space on Centre Street, directly next to the Palace Saloon. The Decantery will feature wine, craft beer and a cocktail lounge. In addition to its extensive 200-bottle wine selection, there will be homemade desserts and state of the art wine dispensing machines. All wines will be served in the lounge and are available for package purchase. Another unusual twist is that the Decantery will have an engraver on site, craft beer with growlers, and liquor, all of which will be available for package. It will be open seven days a week and the wine dispensing machines will enable customers to purchase a tasting, 1/2 glass or a full glass from one of the 16 bottles that will be featured. There will also be charcuterie boards and homemade desserts along with cappuccino. It will also feature regular wine, and beer tastings along with open membership to featured wine clubs. They also say they will have some form of live entertainment on the weekends. Look for an opening sometime in May says the gorgeous blonde Kelly Hovey, Decantery manager and former Britt’s bartender. No word on what may go into the empty Dog Star space. Dr. Robert Hogan, who owns The Tavern and the building housing the Alley Cat, confirms that he has purchased the Parkway Grill property and that his Pogo’s (formerly Gourmet Gourmet & GG’s Bistro) is still grappling with Nassau County bureaucracy. He says he bought the Parkway Grill and property behind it in order to preserve the trees there. Lagniappe, Brian Grimley’s new Cajun flavored restaurant under construction in the Harris Teeter shopping area, looks like its grand opening will be pushed back to May or June due to parking lot issues that are not the fault of the Lulu’s at the Thompson House owner Brian.