Fernandina Management Penny Wise, Pound Foolish?

Skirting on a project that will protect our beaches is no way out of a financial pinch. City Manager Michael Czymbor decided himself that the city would no longer pay its part of a long-term beach nourishment project.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing Columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Marketplace column.

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Fernandina Beach used to be called just “Fernandina.” The town was named that way in the early 1800s in honor of Spain’s King Ferdinand VII. Some years ago, city officials shrewdly changed the name because they felt the “beach” reference would enhance the town’s image — and the coveted industry of tourism. It has worked nimbly.

Just last week, the current city leaders announced that they have apparently redirected their priorities away from the “beach.” Unless they know something we don’t, the prized asset for the city of Fernandina and Amelia Island is the beach. All 13 miles of it (about four miles of it is in the city limits).

The city has been contributing each year toward a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which provides most of the work and carries most of the costs — for our beaches.

Czymbor decided the city could not afford to continue with its monetary commitment toward the beaches. However, a review of recent spending decisions and loopy projects casts significant doubt on this decision.

Didn’t the city just propose spending $200,000 on a trivial project to relocate a perfectly good boardwalk at Main Beach? Isn’t the opening of Alachua Street by the waterfront projected to cost about $500,000 (after it has been closed for decades)?

And just a month ago, city leaders discussed borrowing something like $10 million to renevate several buildings and construct a new library — none of which would have near the appeal of wide, sandy beaches.

Try to imagine the dialogue of a typical family planning its vacation. “Wow, this city has a renovated post office. Let’s go there instead of Disney World.” Or might a secluded, pristine beach be more of a draw?

Granted, there are financial holes in the city budget — which Mayor Susan Steger defines as “fluid.” Well, the fluid could be leaking like a blown engine at Daytona if several developments play out like they appear they will.

First off, some $500,000 of anticipated revenues from a “paid parking” scheme apparently will not materialize. In addition, or maybe subtraction, an orchestrated pilfering of impact fees from local restaurants — that would have netted about $700,000 — has mostly been shelved. The opposition to both endeavors was too great.

Then there are about $1 million of fees and settlement damages looming over the protracted lawsuit over the management of the city airport. No wonder city officials are scrambling to find new sources of tax revenue. However, skirting on a project that will protect our beaches is no way out of a financial pinch.

(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor who lives and works on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or send eMail to [email protected])

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INVESTMENT CLASSES BEING OFFERED AT YULEE CAMPUS OF FLORIDA STATE COLLEGE

A new continuing-education course titled “The Retirement Planning Series” will be held at the Florida State College of Jacksonville campus in Yulee. Local Financial Advisor Steve Nicklas will lead the six individual classes, which will feature guest speakers addressing an array of important financial topics.

The classes will meet from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays beginning April 12, 2011. The cost for the series is $55 per person and is payable to FSCJ. The FSCJ campus can be reached at 904-548-4432.

The classes are: April 12, 2011 — Navigating the Global Stock and Bond Markets; April 19, 2011– Planning Your Estate/ Passing Assets to Your Heirs and Avoiding Probate … featuring Lorie Chism, Attorney, Rogers Towers Law Firm; April 26, 2011 — Using Mutual Funds and Institutional Money Managers … featuring Karl Ashley, Portfolio Manager, Capital Management Associates LLC; May 3, 2011 — Protecting Assets from Taxes and Inflation … featuring Ed Hancock, CPA, Senior Tax Advisor; May 10, 2011 — Building an Income Stream for Retirement … featuring Ellen Straebel, CFP, Financial Analyst, Nassau County; and May 17, 2011 — Developing a Financial Plan.

AUDIO OPTION