(Jack Knocke, Founder of Common Sense Fernandina, shared his thoughts about the behaviors of the Fernandina Beach leaders over the Nassau County Chamber of Commerce survey. He was shocked by their responses.)

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The Nassau County Chamber released the final results of their survey of the Fernandina Beach Building Department today and the results are unbelievably rotten – 79% not satisfied and 68% of respondents projects delayed. 

Many complaints of excessive fees and aggressive, even hostile enforcement.  

There were 164 responses from builders, businesses and residents.  Each category overwhelmingly reported that the city building department is overreaching their authority with excessive fees, delayed responses, approvals/then reversals, unnecessary procedures leading to higher building costs, over enforcement and accusations of retaliation causing builders to remain silent and residents to go underground. 

Builders have been leaving the city causing a shortage of building resources for businesses and residents. 

The City Manager, Dale Martin, is  supportive of his Building Official, Steven Beckman.  In the local paper, Martin shot back that the building official was just doing his job.  He even went so far as to accuse the Nassau Chamber of making multiple requests to “hurry approval” risking lives.  The Chamber has denied these accusations. 

Other incidents noted in Martin’s letter to the editor involve questionable claims by the city official.   Is the Building Official acting on the wishes of the City Manager and the City Commission?   

Speaking with Mayor Lednovich last week he stated that he was “supportive of more aggressive enforcement”.  When my reaction was “wow!”.  He justified his position as keeping the city safe. 

Commissioner Ross is noticeably silent about the issue letting it play out.  Is that because he is also supportive of more aggressive enforcement?  

Our commissioners need to read the Chamber Survey in full and do their job to fix it.   79% not satisfied is a major problem that did not surface overnight.  

It is amazing that the county is enforcing the same Florida Building Codes with much higher satisfaction rates, lower fees and a more efficient operation.  Some have suggested that the county manage the building department on behalf of the city.  That sounds like something worth looking into. 

Regarding excess permit fees, within the last weeks, the city Building Official presented the extent of excess reserves amounting to $3.1 million with a bloated $1.7 million annual budget that was recently closer to an annual budget of $800k.  Is the city trying to spend their way out of excess reserves? 

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Jack Knocke, founder of Common Sense Fernandina is a business consultant and a resident of Fernandina Beach.

 

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