In a recent comment to this blog resident and tax payer Bill Kremler asks some probing questions about the $8,000 the Fernandina Beach City Commissioners gave to local gadfly Lynn Williams for a Water Injection Dredging (WID) project saying:
“Are we, as tax payers supposed to pay for equipment that Lynn Williams allegedly purchased to do a job that he was hired for? And also are we to pay for his travel expenses, to where, may I ask!! And are the items which were purchased (pump, valves, and gauges), now the property of the city of Fernandina Beach or will they remain with the contractor? My point is this, when a contractor is hired, doesn’t he bring along the tools to do the job.”
Mr. Kremler makes some valid points as I’ve never expected to pay for a contractor’s tools or travel expenses for work they do on my house or car. But the city agreed in a document signed May 15, 2013 that materials purchased will remain the property of Williams and David Cook. How come, since the tax payers paid for them?
If this $8,000 Water Injection Dredging (WID) idea has drawn critical local media attention and angst among his supportive Curly, Larry and Moe trio of city commissioners it should set off alarm bells about what else might be going on with our tax dollars down at city hall on a much larger scale.
I’m sure that Lynn Williams is indeed a fine person with good intentions; however, I also believe that this “water injection dredging” concept or “the miracle mud machine” as I’ve heard others refer to it is all wet for a variety of reasons and here’s why:
In a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the City Manager Joe Gerrity, City Attorney Tammi Bach, Williams, and David Cook it says in item number 3 that “Williams and Cook agree to provide a prototype equipment suitable for test and demonstration of WID” and in item 4 Williams and Cook agreed that they will deliver a report with photographs describing the apparatus, test work and results at the conclusion of their work. That was well over a year ago.
They must not be anywhere near close to completion because nothing has been photographed or reported to date and when Williams was asked for an accounting by Mayor Ed Boner last month, he became testy and the Curly, Larry and Moe trio of commissioners supported his lack of activity, with one, Pat Gass, falling all over herself apologizing for the mayor’s inquiry. What’s up with that?
What happened to the $30,000 worth of dredging studies conducted by Advanced Technology Management (ATM) that was submitted in November 2011 that included a Water Injection Dredging solution? And why didn’t the city hire a company adequately staffed and qualified in WID operations instead of the Williams one-man-show?
Why did the city have to pay for a $250 permit to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the WID project modifications this past March? Why didn’t that come out of the $8,000 given to Williams?
Why did Mr. Gerrity in a May 15, 2014 memo to Beverlee Lawrence of the Army Corps of Engineers in response to her inquiries on the WID project say: “We want to avoid costs and time in responding to a request for public notice?”
From everything I’ve seen the only activity that’s taken place to date is Mr. Williams showing a promotional video of a Dutch firm’s WID capabilities at a commission meeting last month and signing a check made out to him and depositing it in his personal bank account on May 31, 2013. With the exception of Mayor Boner and Johnny Miller, the other three city commissioners have only criticized those that question the city’s funding of this project who are asking Mr. Williams to account for the tax money he received.
And since the city insurer’s risk management authority said the WID experiment should not be conducted on city property due to liability issues, where is David Cook in all of this? His property south of the city’s marina was supposed to be the site of the test, and he signed the MOU, but he has been suspiciously quiet and no recent correspondence I’ve seen includes him. If Mr. Cook’s property isn’t involved where will this WID test take place?
Local attorney Clinch Kavanaugh interestingly and colorfully described this situation when he told me that the current chaotic city management resembles a cross between “a Criminal Enterprise and a Mobile Park Home Owner’s Association.”
Folks, you need to attend some of these city commission meetings to track the use of your tax money, ask questions, and then vote in the November local elections for those you think will be the best stewards of your cash. From what I’ve seen it is not the Curly, Larry and Moe trio currently Nyuking it up at city hall.
But This Group Deserves A Medal: One city organization that works like a well oiled machine is the Fernandina Fire Department under Chief Jason Higginbotham, which I credit along with my wife, Linda, for saving my life when I suffered a stroke last August 11. This professional group of no-nonsense responders were inside our house about two minutes after I hit the floor and Linda called 911, and they had me hooked up to a variety of devices and on the way the Jacksonville’s Baptist Medical Center’s emergency room and its stroke victim ICU, which they were in constant communications with from the ambulance. But the other day I wondered out loud to Commissioner Johnny Miller why both an ambulance and fire truck responded and he posed that question to Chief Higginbotham, who said there are a variety of very good reasons; including the fact they never really know what they may face when responding to an emergency. For example, they could be up against anything from a HazMat incident to a high angle and confined space rope rescue with broken bones, even with a stroke or heart attack victim. If, like me, you need these folks in a hurry you won’t care if they bring along the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Radio City Rockets, because they know what they are doing and they are the most polite and proficient city employees I’ve dealt with anywhere I’ve ever lived and that covers a lot of territory. So, if you see an emergency vehicle with its lights flashing near you pull over and be thankful we have such an expert staff available to serve us. This is tax money well spent and I don’t begrudge a dime of it, in fact these people are probably under paid.
Want to Buy A Boat? Maybe You Really Don’t: When Monty and Capprice Kitchen visited Amelia Island last year to discuss bringing a “boat club” concept here and merging their Dallas-based business with Suntex’s Amelia Island Yacht Basin operation, the attractive and fun couple fell in love with the island and it didn’t take them long to close the deal and set up operations. Now they have taken that a step further by spinning off the boat club concept on their own and forming the Amelia Boat Club & Rentals, giving them the independence they feel will let them expand and offer their members even more advantages. The boat club concept has proved popular among islanders as it provides its members all the conveniences of having a boat anytime they want one without worrying about maintenance, storage, insurance, etc. The Kitchen’s introduced Brian Crane, their newest hire, at a reception for members last week explaining that he is moving here from their Lake Altoona, GA location where he was an experienced angler and boat mechanic. The club offers a variety of boat club memberships based on what a member wants including full membership (7-days a week), weekday membership (no weekends), memberships for folks that live here part-time (Snowbirds), shared memberships (share with a buddy), corporate memberships and something new they are rolling out under their new club, a Flextime Membership for folks that want to boat just a few times a year. They also have boat and wave runner rentals available to the public for hourly rates. If you’re not sure a boat club is for you then contact Monty, Capprice or Brian and they’ll schedule a tour for you to check them and the options out. They are also planning monthly open houses to show off their boats and facility. The phone number, 904/572-3216, remains the same but the new website will be ameliaboatclub.com.
Odds & Ends: Can someone explain to me without a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo why the City of Fernandina Beach is suing local attorney Clinch Kavanaugh because he made a public records request? *** The National Security Agency (NSA) can hack into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cell phone, yet we are expected to believe that the IRS is incapable of retrieving internal emails? Why don’t they just ask the NSA for them? ***A Quinnipiac University poll this week says President Obama is the worst president in the past 70 years on his handling of everything from the economy to foreign policy, probably making Jimmy Carter very, very happy.***Target stores will not sell firearms. Shouldn’t they have decided on that before they designed their logo?***A story out of Georgia reported in the Valdosta Times about a ruckus in a local convenience store could be described in a nutshell thusly: “Good guy with gun goes to jail for holding other good guy with gun at gunpoint.
Hip Hop Charlie: This past week some 1,500 Florida Democrats meeting in Hollywood near Miami heard a series of speakers, including former President Bill Clinton, bash Governor Rick Scott at its annual find raising dinner recently, but were denied the chance to hear from the Democratic candidates themselves – former Republican Governor now Democrat Charlie Crist and former Democratic Senate leader Nan Rich – a signal I take that the state Democrat leadership has little or no faith in their flag bearers. I’m not the biggest fan of Governor Rick Scott but at least I know where he stands, unlike Charlie “I’m a Republican, no wait, I’m a Democrat” Crist, who leaves voters scratching their heads as he repeatedly hops from one ideological foot to the other.
Seminole Queen Upends Gator Beauty: In the latest Florida voter screw-up Miss Florida contestant organizers booted 20-year-old University of Florida student Elizabeth Fechtel off her just-won Miss Florida throne when a recount a week uncovered that they crowned the wrong woman. The 20-year-old Miss Fechtel was crowned this year’s Miss Florida last Saturday in St. Petersburg with some 2,000 folks looking on but it turns out that the folks counting ballots didn’t see that one of the judges had changed his mind, writing a new line-up on the left-hand side of his ballot and organizers have now handed runner-up Victoria Cowen, a 21-year-old Florida State University student, the crown snatched from the head of disappointed Gator, Miss Fechtel. It appears that the Miss Florida pageant is about as chaotic and organized as a Fernandina Beach City Commission session.
Overreaching Georgia Politico: Friend Benita Dodd of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation reports that a recent Peach Pundit blog out of Atlanta said Peach State Democratic gubnatorial candidate Jason Carter asked for a third investigation into current Governor Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign finance accounting errors for which the campaign has already been fined. State Attorney General Sam Olens had this to say: “While I have considered your letter in good faith, if you have a request in the future I would appreciate the courtesy of receiving it before you discuss it in the press, and with time to review it before it is attached to partisan fundraising appeals. This office takes its constitutional and statutory responsibilities very seriously and has no interest in being used for political purposes.” Bada bing!
Regulatory Madness: A 2004 poll found that 90 percent of American Indians were not offended by the Washington Redskins football team’s name and a 2013 AP-GfK poll indicated that 79 percent of Americans of all ethnicities opposed changing it, and that just 18 percent of “nonwhite football fans” favored changing it, indicating that columnist George Will is correct when he says “In today’s regulatory state, agencies can often do pretty much as they please” referring to the Patent and Trademark Office’s cancellation of six of the team’s trademark s on its 80-year-old name. The bureaucratic nitwits that reside in these regulatory sinkholes in DC need to be flushed down the sewer of oblivion.
PC Craziness Continues: A black New Jersey man is suing his former employer Benjamin Moore for discrimination after he says the paint company named two brown paint tones after him. Clinton Tucker’s suit claims he was given the boot in March after he repeatedly complained about the colors Tucker Chocolate and Clinton Brown. And if that isn’t goofy enough how about a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, which charged that the Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa military vehicles were a “greater symbolic injustice” than the NFL’s Washington Redskins’ name. Will this nonsense never end?
Things I Wish I’d Said: “Just gave up my first-class airline seat to the person who actually had the ticket for it.” – Steve Martin Tweet. “Isn’t it funny how red, white and blue represent freedom, unless they’re flashing behind you.” – posted on the constantly changing signboard in front of Pajama Dave’s downtown South 2nd St. Pajama Life shop.