Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

The Nassau County School Superintendent Is Stonewalling; And Taxpayer Watchdog Group Is Told To Go Pound Sand

Jack Knocke of the local watchdog group Common Sense is questioning School Superintendent Kathy Burns about why $3.7 million of our tax dollars are being spent on a questionable Yulee property purchase. He was told to pay up, shut up and wait.

Knocke, the head of Common Sense, sent a letter to Ms. Burns and all School Board members on behalf of his group requesting information that should be readily available to the public, particularly the local taxpayers that are on the hook financially. He also met with Ms. Burns.

He was stonewalled. He was told that he could not have details unless he paid a $100 deposit and maybe more. What? the School Board is charging its constituents for public information? What the…..

I understand Jack’s frustration. I’ve contacted Ms. Burns to question her about illegal aliens in our classrooms and her answers were evasive and defensive. I, like Jack, would like to see the vote on the questionable spending of  $3.7 million of our money postponed until it can be fully explained and justified to taxpayers. How does the Board justify paying $2.3 million more than the property sold for nine months ago? Did the Board look at alternative properties? What is the apprised value of the property? Was other or currently owned school property considered? How will the School Board use this property? And more!

Jack is urging residents to attend the school board meeting on Thursday, March 10th, at 6:30 pm. He’s suggesting that those attending request to speak during the due diligence discussion on the questionable property purchase. The meeting is in the School Board Building directly across the Street from Central Park at 1201 Atlantic Avenue, Fernandina Beach.

“As of today, the school board agenda for March 10th DOES NOT reflect any discussion of due diligence as was requested at the last meeting by School Board member Dr. Cynthia Grooms,” said Knocke in a follow up to his initial request. “It will take a courageous Board to insist that this is put on the agenda and even more courage to vote to cancel the contract until all of the emails are released to the board and to the public.”

Knocke was openly critical of Burns and the School Board adding: “We need to shine a bright light on these processes – the Property Purchase AND the Public Records Request (PRR) process. Unfortunately, this process is not open and transparent to the public.”

Following is Jack’s initial letter to the Nassau County School Board members detailing the property purchase issue:

“The school board is voting on March 10 at 6:30 p.m. on whether to confirm the purchase of 10 acres near Yulee Elementary School. This is property that was bought by the current owner for $1.4 million dollars in May of 2021. The school system seeks to purchase this exact same property for $3.7 million dollars – a cool $2.3 million in profits in 9 months. Profits paid for by us taxpayers.

Several of us have asked to see the emails related to this purchase for full disclosure and transparency. Something does not smell right. The school system says bunk. Pay $100 to get started. They say, “we may bill you more if we want to.”  This is public information and should be shared openly and happily to residents who are FUNDING this purchase. You as board members OWE us transparency, due diligence, and fiduciary responsibly for the spending of our tax dollars. As of today, even though I have asked, no Nassau County School Board members have insisted that this data be made public to THEM or to the PUBLIC!

I met with the Superintendent yesterday and she said that, by policy, she must charge us for the information, but she will look into changing the policy. She says that will take a few months. It seems that the Nassau County School system has been blocking FOIA (Freedom of Information Requests) with this policy for some time. I am checking to see if this policy is legal. Dr. Burns reiterated to me that this is THE BOARD’s responsibility to vote on this transaction. It’s on you School Board. Delay the purchase until the emails in question are provided to you and to the public to make an informed decision. Anything else is an irresponsible vote.

My request to you as the Nassau County School Board is to delay the decision on the purchase of the proposed 10 acres Near Yulee Elementary School 90 days (or longer if required) until the School Board can change the Public Records Release policy that is preventing the sharing of public information that can prove that this transaction is honest and forthright OR corrupt and wasteful. We just don’t know because the information has not been released.

If other taxpayers agree, they are welcome to reply to the School Board members via this email or write their own message to express their concern. Next School Board meeting is Thursday, March 10th at 6:30. Citizens may also be there to express our dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency, appearance of a cover up and misapplication of the Freedom of Information Act process.”

Nassau County School Board Members

Lissa Braddock   904-507-9522

Gail Cook              904-261-9127

Jamie Deonas     904-277-0006

Cynthia Grooms 904-845-8105

Donna Martin     904-261-9015

The School Board site is: https://www.nassau.k12.fl.us/domain/89 and contains the board members email addresses. The meeting is at the School Board Building at 1201 Atlantic Avenue, across the street from Central Park.

Jack Knocke can be contacted at jack@iotadvisorgroup.com or (470) 295-4365. To learn more about Common Sense go to: https://commonsensefb.org/index.html

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The Messy State Of The Union: It wasn’t enough having to listen to Joe Biden plod through a more than one hour disjointed State of The Union speech, but we also had to watch what appeared to be a deranged Nancy Pelosi sitting behind him making strange faces and popping up and down in her chair like she was possessed.

Throughout the Tuesday, March 1 State of the Union address by Biden, Pelosi was seen strangely grinning , adjusting her dentures, searching for a spit-cup, and leaping up and down like she desperately needed to use the restroom.

Her behavior was so weird that some in the audience were questioning her mental state, with one wondering: “Is Pelosi good?”

Pelosi ‘s most bizarre conduct began when Biden started talking about  the importance of supporting veterans by providing them with the care they need when they come home.

“My administration is providing assistance with job training and housing, and now helping lower-income veterans get VA care debt-free,” Biden said before addressing the need for this care saying: “Our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan faced many dangers. One being stationed at bases breathing in toxic smoke from ‘burn pits,’ many of you have been there.”

Pelosi apparently considered the idea of soldiers breathing in toxic smoke extremely applause-worthy and leapt into action. However, the manner in which she did it was “weird” and “creepy” as she grinned manically and rubbed her knuckles together.

Steven Crowder, host of “Louder with Crowder,” said this was confirmation that Pelosi is actually, “a squirrel on drugs.”

Laura Ingraham of Fox News reacted to Pelosi’s weird behavior saying: “She bolts up out of her seat like she’s sitting on itching powder.”

Even when it was obvious that Biden was making stuff up as he went along, Pelosi kept jumping up and down in her seat applauding enthusiastically.  Her Senate counterpart,  Chuck Schumer, also appeared very confused. He missed his “Stand up” cue when he rose and started to applaud, only to look around sheepishly and see his Democrat counterparts all seated. He flashed a puzzled look and quickly sat back down, awaiting his next “stand-up” signal.

In a statement that proves how dim Biden is and an indication of how dim his staff thinks we are, was when he said he had authorized oil to be released from the national emergency reserves. The amount of oil he authorized will last for all of two days. It also takes oil out of a reserve that is designed to provide fuel for military emergencies and has to be replaced.

Biden’s speech was so awful and full of lies and exaggerations that even the pro-Biden Democrat mouthpiece, the Washington Post ran an article, not celebrating a victorious oration, but headlined: “Fact-checking President Biden’s 2022 State of the Union address.”

The Biden-friendly paper identified a lengthy list of misinformation in the speech including these two gems:

  • Biden said: “Our economy created over 6.5 million new jobs just last year, more jobs created in one year than ever before in the history of America.” WaPo: “The United States is emerging from a pandemic that caused huge job losses in 2020 — 9 million jobs, in fact.”
  • Biden said: “The only president ever to cut the deficit by more than 1 trillion dollars in a single year.” WaPo: “In the first four months of fiscal 2022, which began last October, the federal government ran a deficit of $259 billion.”

Biden’s solutions for America’s most critical and urgent issues are like putting an amateur in charge of a  bomb disposal unit who thinks that the solution to defusing it is to silence the ticking sound.

The idea that he is a world leader is delusional. Where is the pledge that America will lead by example? All we heard was Mr. Mumbles admit the country has major problems including immigration, crime, energy, persistent inflation, voting issues, etc, all issues he and the Democrats created during the past year. Biden’s solutions aren’t solutions. He wants to double down and make things even worse.

His rambling speech demonstrated that the country is leaderless, and the mid-terms can’t get here soon enough.

Oh, and exactly who are the folks he yelled about at the end of  his talk that we are supposed to “Go get?”

***

Overheard at PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden: “Dr. Fauci is like a doctor who is treating a patient with pneumonia. Fauci says he’ll cure it by amputating the patient’s leg. The patient recovers from pneumonia – which he would have anyway – but now has only one leg. Fauci then praises himself for his bold, radial treatment.”

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Something Doesn’t Add Up At City Hall: Dr. Jerry Decker knows a thing or two about numbers.

Dr. Decker, a former member of the Marina Advisory Board, who earned his doctorate in mathematics, told the Fernandina Beach City Commission that the odds are weighing heavily against the taxpayer unless the $20 million bond referendum vote is moved.

He wrote to the Commission this week saying: “Putting the $20M bond referendum on the December 2022 run-off ballot means that likely less than 30% of the city’s 11,566 registered voters will decide an issue that financially impacts all city taxpayers.”

He cited low voter turnout in run-off elections with the following examples:

  • The Sturges/Minshew run-off was decided by only 3,000 voters.
  • The Bean/Lednovich run-off was decided by only 2,712 voters.
  • The Pointer/Corbett run-off was decided by only 2,676 voters.

“Ignoring the will of 70% of the electorate on a matter of this magnitude is un-democratic and un-acceptable,” says Dr. Decker. “Put the issue in front of the entire electorate—which means put it on the November general election ballot, where it belongs.”

Only Commissioner Chip Ross, a guy I rarely agree with, supported Dr. Decker’s suggestion, but says he was outvoted on the issue, 4-1.

I agree with both Dr. Decker and Commissioner Ross. Can the other Commissioners explain why it shouldn’t be on the general election ballot which traditionally sees a large turnout of voters? I’d like to hear their explanation.

No matter what ballot it is on residents should vote “NO” unless they want a larger more bloated local government, more wasteful spending, and higher taxes.

***

Things I Wish I’d Said: “I believe that Arlington National Cemetery contains 400,000 reasons why you should stand your ass up for the national anthem.” – Senator John Kennedy (R-LA).

***

Baseball Strikes Out: The twits that run the game, led by the Baseball Players Union and MLB’s clueless Commissioner, Rob Manfred, displayed once again that they don’t care about the fans that pay their salaries.

Overshadowed by the cancellation of several days of regular season games because these doofuses are engaged in a mindless labor dispute, was the move of the designated hitter (DH) into the National League, universalizing this dreadful abomination. The American League has been saddled with the DH atrocity since 1973.

This DH excuses the pitcher from ever having to come to bat and creates an entire group of players (DH’s) who only play part of the game. They never take the field to play defense.

Gone are the days of having a man on base in the 9th inning with a weak hitting pitcher at bat who surprises everyone by laying down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner into scoring position.

A pitcher set a record that can now never be broken because pitchers no longer bat. On July 3, 1966,Tony Cloninger, in an Atlanta Braves’ 17–3 win over the San Francisco Giants, hit two grand slam home runs, and had nine RBIs,  a record that still stands. Cloninger became the first player in the  National League and remains the only pitcher, to hit two grand slams in a single game.

If MLB keeps screwing up the game they won’t have to go on strike – fans won’t care because they’ll have moved on.

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New Poll: Results of last week’s poll asking if readers agreed or disagreed with the online Fernandina Observer’s article identifying/doxing a local resident for his monetary contribution to protesting Canadian Truckers  are in. It overwhelmingly came in on the side of the resident the Observer tried to shame with 89 percent disapproving of the Observer’s tactics and only 7 percent approving. This week readers are being asked if taxpayers have the right to know the financial details of the Nassau County School Board’s purchase of a $3.7 million land purchase and put it on hold until they are revealed. No one, including me, knows the identity of the people who vote in these polls.

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Drinking, Dining &Dancing: More than one reliable source told me that the popular Sandbar & Kitchen at Main Beach has changed hands with personable owner/bartender, Kevin Dooner, selling the popular ocean front property and its pricy liquor inventory to Tom Flannery, owner of the Fletcher Avenue Surf. I’m told the transaction will close this coming Monday.

  • Comment (29)
  • Dave, thanks for shining a light on the school board actions. We need them to make the right decision for the taxpayers, students and parents and spend funds responsibly!
    Jack

  • Dave, you and Jack should be ashamed of yourselves for presenting so much false information regarding the purchase of land to expand the Yulee Elementary School. Your statement “3.7 million of our tax dollars is being spent on a questionable Yulee property purchase” could not be further from the truth. The dollars proposed to be spent are NOT “tax dollars”. They are funds generated by impact fees paid by developers and specifically required by law to be spent for expanding the facilities of Nassau County’s School system. Your description of the purchase as “questionable” clearly demonstrates you have no knowledge of the traffic nightmare that is occurring twice a day on Felmore Road as parents wait in long lines to either drop off or retrieve their children. The acquisition of the adjoining property with hundreds of feet on State Road 200 and Yanie Road solves this critical traffic problem saving student parents hours of sitting in long car lines every day. If you guys can’t present truthful information which the public can then use to make informed decisions you should simply SHUT UP.

    • Ed,
      Yelling SHUT UP is a childish way to address facts.

      Impact Fees are taxes and should be spent responsibly. Those impact fees are paid by businesses and home buyers when they purchase a property, not just developers.

      Questionable is a very accurate word. Huge price and profit to the new owner, no transparency, rushed and uninformed vote – all equate to questionable.

      Truth and nothing but the truth.
      Jack

      • You’re right Jack. Impact fees are taxes! You can dress them up whatever way you want, but it is a tax, nonetheless. And that does mean it comes under the purview of the citizens and those that are taxed (Dick). Hey Dick, are you seriously saying that elected officials are not to be held accountable for funds they collect? What a beautiful way to let them run wild with the money they collect from ALL taxpayers, developers or not. Who exactly is going to “develop” land owned by the School system? I would guess that land purchased by the School system would be used for schools? Am I just crazy or have they gotten into the same business as Rayonier’s Wildlight development?

      • The Education Impact Fee is tax incurred solely by the developer despite your attempt to trickle it down to home buyers. It is not within your purview to act on behalf of the developer or homebuyers to demand accountability nor does the school board answer to you (or Dave). There are ordinances specific to Nassau County impact fees with sections that address how, what, when, those impact fees are to be held, spent, and if the case should arise, be returned to the developer. If you want to self-appoint yourself as guardian of those impact fees, perhaps you should start with detailing how the school board has violated one or more of those ordinances and go from there.

    • Yet more evidence that “Common Sense” can be anything but common at times. However, common sense gleaned from experience tells me that if you’re waiting for a meal culpa from Jack and/or Dave, it will be an exercise in futility.

      • Richard. Reading your comments makes me feel like a cancer is moving to Fernandina. Please don’t.

    • So does that mean paying three times the cost of the previous sale is okay with you? Is there such a bloat in the funds that there isn’t enough places to use it? And did the prior purchaser know about the school boards interest in the property and bought it with a huge profit in mind?

  • The inability of publicly elected officials to open up and just tell it all amazes me.

    The virus is not unique to your town, Dave.

    It’s wild and crazy unresponsiveness everywhere.

  • Another issue should be why the School Board is purchasing prime Real Estate on SR200? As admitted in another comment, the traffic alone in that area should nix another school building, built right next door. Surely there is “land”, at a cheaper price, NOT on a super busy highway leading to the island.

  • If my memory serves me correctly the School Supt is an elected position.
    Her actions and arrogance should be a wake up call for all Nassau County
    voters and vote accordingly.Seems like this scenario has already played out
    in many school board meetings in mostly Blue States.Surely this does not
    mean that Nassau County has changed colors does it? If not,this group is
    making a damned good impression of a group in San Fransisco.Which by
    the way had three school board members recalled this past week.Food for
    thought!

    • You are correct. The School Supt is an elected position that all too few voters pay attention to.
      Ms. Burns’ disgraceful performance during the school masking debacle alone was enough to fire her at the ballot box, along with her supporters on the board. The Left has taken their battle to control this country to our children. And make no mistake about it: Ms. Burns is a leftist masquerading as a Republican (because this is a Republican County). We need to vote the RINOS out.

  • I applaud investors for their insight and ability to create wealth from risky investments. In this case, I am a little suspicious that there may be the possibility for insider information to reduce or eliminate that risk. Like all investments that can generate significant “above current market condition value appreciations”, they should be investigated further. The SEC would certainly do this on most large capital transactions. All documents pertaining to this transaction (emails, texts, phone records, etc.) should be explored if this transaction goes through to find out ALL details. Looking at other locations where growth is exploding (WILDLIGHT, TRIBUTARY, ETC.) should have been a part of this process and compared for additional facilities against all other options. That option analysis (populations, logistics, costs, etc.) should be presented and shared and have been a part of this decision-making process.

  • Dave, the information you have provided regarding the School Board purchase is untruthful. The money for this purchase is from out of town developer’s impact fees…..not tax payer’s money. The price per acre is much less than paid for most other commercially zoned properties on State road 200. Consider RaceTrack at $769,000 per acre, Target at $484,000 per acre, Aldis at $619,000 per acre, and GateGas at $742,000 per acre. The price to the Schoolboard at $370,000 is a bargain. I have two children in Yulee Elementary School. I spend more than an hour sitting in line everyday to pick them up as a result of the tarffic jam on Felmore Road. If you want to truly address a tax payer dollar wasted issue, call the Sheriff’s Department and ask what it costs to place four deputies at the school twice a day to manage traffic. I applaud and support the School Board’s purchase. Lots of other parents do as well. Stop posting untruthful information solely intended to arouse hysteria where none is needed. We have enough other fake news in our lives to not have to read it in your blog.

    • Who do you think pays the impact fees? It certainly isn’t the Town or the School Board… Those are taxes just like property taxes are. It comes from the taxpayers, not the government. Look I get there may be a need for more schools, but do they have to be built next to an already heavily trafficked roadway at a premium price? No, they do not. Wouldn’t it be better served for all to locate one away from major traffic flows and build the appropriate drop off and pick up lanes to accommodate the parents and kids? Just my 2 cents for what it’s worth.

      • Wrong Fred. There are Florida Statutes that govern local municipalities instituting and administering impact fees as well as Nassau County agreements in place with towns and the School Board that contradict your answers to the questions you pose.

        • Wrong Dick, are developers not taxpayers? It is a tax, disguised as a fee. Aren’t you the one whining about the tax breaks Rayonier got when they began developing Wildlight? This is simply a way to make tax money become something that doesn’t have to be reported or reviewed to be used. It’s wrong, you know it and I don’t even know why you are even defending the process, Mr. I’m an Independent, informed voter.

          • Dick, you are wasting you breath and energy. Don’t you have some weeds to pull or kids to chase off your lawn?

          • Nope Fred, wrong Dick. I’ve never once mentioned Rayonier in any fashion. I typically keep my mouth shut on subjects I haven’t researched or have intimate knowledge of. Secondly, it’s apparent you know nothing of how impact fees work or their reporting and usage requirements dictated by state and county laws. Thirdly, I’m not defending the process as much as I’m defending against hearsay and misinformation.

  • Am I reading this responses correctly- impact fees are not taxes collected by the city? And developers do not pass costs onto customers?? What source of revenue stream do public entities have beside taxes? And where do developers recoup costs?

  • I have also made Public Records requests, one about this land deal and one about the District’s management recruitments. This is about the District’s lack of essential Core Values. They continue to show themselves lacking in transparency, integrity and accountability. They place obstacles in the path of their constituents, members of the Nassau County community. They have refused to provide even the simplest, least time consuming request to me without insisting that I have to pay them to take the documents out of a file and make them available to review. The Florida state statute on FOIA requests is clear, the District is ONLY allowing to impose a charge is the request involves EXCESSIVE, IT, Clerical and/or Supervisory time. This District has stated that ALL requests involve an extensive amount of time. I’ve been the PRR Officer at multiple School Districts and provided all documents requested by members of the community for review at NO cost and only charged them for the copies of documents that they requested. Call the Board and the Superintendent on their behavior. Hold them accountable!

    • Your last statement leaves me questioning your grasp of the process by which land acquisitions are decided and approved for Nassau County. You and others heaping criticisms on the School Board (and the Superintendent) would do well to familiarize yourself with not only the county ordinances governing impact fees, but educate yourselves on the respective parties involved in the decision-making. I suggest you start with the Amended Interlocal Agreement For Public School Planning (between the Nassau County Board of Commissioners, surrounding towns, and the School Board), which can be found online with a search. And speaking of searches, I knew little about this subject prior to reading Mr. Ed Powers’ admonishment of Dave and Jack’s misinformation campaign. Everything I’ve read online exposes the ignorance of many who’ve commented here and gives clues as to why the demand for information under FOIA is not a simple matter of turning over documents that many seem to believe are handily available. A bit of knowledge goes a long way toward asking the right questions of the right people to achieve your goal.

  • School boards have long used the ‘for the chuldren’ line to prevent being held accountable. I have lived in Fernandina 30 years and never had a child in school. ..And I’ve never complained. I’m sure if something this blatant is happening, there are many other things that need looking into. Time for reckoning. Over 2 million dollar profit in 9 months. Yeah right!

  • I was active in the successful class action impact fee case against the City some years ago. I am not familiar with the specifics of this school case. But let me try and clear up some things about impact fees. They are governed by FL law and are not taxes and may not be dealt with as taxes. They are fees paid by owners and may only be expended to ameliorate the costs caused by new development. The funds are not the property of the government but held in trust for the developer until properly spent by government and the burden of proving that the funds were appropriately spent falls on government who must prove it by a preponderence of the evidence. Back then the City could not meet those standards and was required to refund the impact fees. In fact, the City routinely used impact fees as taxes and the FL court in two trials found them in violation of state law.

  • Dave…great article. As usual the liberal whackos that want to rob the taxpayers of their money come out to comment. Keep up the good work.

  • Impact fees are a one-time tax imposed on all new residential and commercial construction by local governments to defray the cost of growth’s “impact” on vital services such as schools, parks, roads, ambulance and fire service and other infrastructure needs.

    Clarity is all.

  • The arguments as to whether impact fees should be considered taxes is only a distraction to the real question that should be put to the School Board for justification. Why should they be paying $2.3 million more than the property was last acquired for ($1.4 million) in May 2021? Certainly has some suspicious odors to the transaction.
    As another poster stated, the current School Board position regarding public information requests will not stand up to challenge. The First Amendment Foundation should be contacted to investigate.

  • Since this land is so valuable, perhaps the best solution is to acquire a much larger and less costly piece of land a bit of distance from A1A and relocate the Yulee Elementary School to a new location with all new facilities. Eventually, the current site of 16 acres could be sold for many millions to help defray the cost of a new school campus. Perhaps nearby off of Pages Dairy.

    $3.7 million of spending avoided and perhaps another $4 million plus from the sale of the current school. A pretty good down payment on a new first class facility.

  • Obviously, the Progress North Florida group got a bargain buy on the ten acre property next to Yulee Elementary School for their planned shopping center. County records indicate they paid $140,000 per acre. Consider the Tractor Supply property sold three and one half years earlier for $351,000 per acre. At about the same time property across the street for the new Gate Carwash also sold for $379,000 per acre and the 14 acre site for the Target store sold for $484,000 per acre. Why the property in question sold for so low is unknown but it did have a large for FOR SALE sign posted on State Road 200 for nearly three years. Now, because the school would like to buy the property, the Progress group has set aside its shopping center development plans and is willing to sell the property for its fair market appraised value. Nothing is wrong with this. There is no evidence of collusion by any member of the School Board or its superintendent for the property having been sold last year for less than its then current market value. Maybe the seller needed the money. But now there seems to be anger, angst and outrage on this blog for the profit that might be made for a sale of this property to the School Board for its fair market value. What causes this? Is it envy? Is it greed? I have two children attending Yulee Elementary School. I support the Board’s decision to buy this property and so do hundreds of other parents whose children attend the school. We believe Dr. Burns is an honorable, honest, and capable community leader and take issue with anyone who thinks otherwise. Yulee Elementary School urgently needs space to expand to accommodate new students. There needs to be an alternate access to the School to solve the current traffic problem on Felmore Road. If the School Board does not buy this property, it will be school’s students and parents that suffer and not the deranged conspiracy theorists posting drivel on this blog.

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