— Steve’s Marketplace —
Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.
A knee jerk decision by city officials to potentially condemn the lone entertainment pier at the Fernandina Harbor Marina smells as fishy as the old pogie plant.
A small bait fish, pogies were ground up and made into fertilizer at the plant on Egan’s Creek. The process emitted a stench that stung the nostrils. The oily fish also left a bad taste, like the recent actions by city officials.
The decision came out of nowhere. Mayor Mike Lednovich announced on Facebook that the city may condemn the central pier holding the popular Brett’s Waterway Cafe. As justification, Lednovich posted a letter written by the engineer the city employs, based upon an assessment from an engineering firm the city pays (and handsomely). So these are hardly impartial assessors.
Anyway, the report stemmed from an investigation of the main pier done more than a year ago by Passero Associates. So why the sudden reaction, the immediacy of demands to the company that leases the pier, and to Brett’s restaurant? To give them only 60 days to act, to reinforce the structure. Or else it’ll be condemned.
“I don’t think they have that much justification if they have been holding onto the report for a year,” says a former city official. “That’s as fishy as it gets. I also think they don’t have the full story.”
The city owns the pier, but leases it to Center Street Restaurant Group – which in turn leases to Brett’s. The large wooden boardwalk surrounding Brett’s would likely also be condemned. Like Brett’s, the boardwalk is a favorite destination for residents and visitors, especially at sunset.
Also, the pier is a focal point of the downtown marina. Demolishing it would interrupt the flow of vehicles and pedestrians in this pivotal section of Centre Street. And make your eyes sore.
Another issue is what to put in its place. The marina docks are arranged off this main, centrally positioned pier. The entire area could be torn up for months, even years with city officials calling the shots.
Heck, the marina just reopened after being damaged from a hurricane five years ago. The fuel farm is finally operating. The fishing fleet and the boating companies are now comfortably situated and working, at last. And to tear it up again?
One former city commissioner doubts the timing, and the urgency. “They just got their asses handed to them on the eminent domain attempt,” the commissioner said, regarding the city’s failed attempt to acquire the Simmons property along the waterfront.
Then this letter suddenly appears, a year after the inspection of the pier was initiated. To say the city’s decision on this important pier is rash is like calling poison ivy contagious. And it has been done with no transparency, behind closed doors.
At least give the restaurant group the time to get a second opinion, from a true expert in such matters. Come to think of it, why wasn’t the pier examined following hurricanes Matthew and Irma? Did the city fail to report the damage to federal officials, for possible reimbursement, or did they overlook it?
This isn’t about city officials doing anything illegal. However, these harsh actions are inappropriate, and chaotic, toward a successful, flagship business here. But should we expect anything else?
What do they say? If it smells like a fish and tastes like a fish, it’s usually a fish. With squishy allegations, in this case, that are as hard to swallow as rancid sushi. ____
Steve Nicklas is a financial adviser with a regional brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in weekly newspapers in North Florida and in South Georgia, and on his website at SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book, “All About Money,” of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected]