Fight brewing between Nassau County, Fernandina Port over meeting room
Image via Wes Wolfe.

220316 county attorney shuffle
'I’m not real happy with it.'

It’s not quite “no room at the inn” for the Port of Fernandina’s Ocean Highway and Port Authority (OHPA) this holiday season, though some Commissioners are wondering whether Nassau County is being a Scrooge about its meeting space.

OHPA, which doesn’t have a permanent meeting spot, had to leave the County Commission chambers and reserve a room at the Yulee campus of Florida State College at Jacksonville during the past several months because of the county’s election planning needs. 

“We received an interlocal agreement from the county — we’ve been trying to get this for over a month, and they finally got something to us,” OHPA Chairman Danny Fullwood said at the Board’s last meeting of the year.

The agreement sets a $100 basic fee for each meeting, which does not include the required additional cost of hiring a bailiff through the Sheriff’s Office. On top of that, the county won’t allow OHPA to use any of the county’s information technology staff or equipment while using the space, because of cybersecurity concerns.

“I’m not real happy with it,” Fullwood said. 

The way he figures, the total cost per meeting could be around $400, which is a non-starter. Also, the IT ban would mean the Board wouldn’t be allowed to use the county’s wifi to broadcast its meetings, or any of the other equipment on hand in the room.

“I’m just trying to figure out why one public, governing body has the right to charge another public, governing body anything,” Commissioner Ray Nelson said. “That’s a public building. That’s built by the taxpayers.  

“So, I’m trying and struggling with, why do we have one entity that says, ‘If you’re going to use this, you’ve got to pay us?’ It hasn’t been done in the past. On the waterfront we call that ‘passport practice.’ You don’t change up midstream.” 

The county only has four IT people to run meetings held at the County Commission, so they’re already stretched thin as it is, Commissioner Justin Taylor said. Both Taylor and Commissioner Miriam Hill pointed out the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners is within its rights to ask for payment and conditions, since OHPA isn’t a subdivision of the county government, but a separate entity.

Fullwood asked Port Attorney Patrick Krechowski to continue working with county officials on the issue in hopes of coming to an agreement more palatable to the Board. Meanwhile, Fullwood and OHPA Executive Director David Kaufman recently toured the Peck Center in Fernandina Beach, and that could be OHPA’s new home if the terms are correct — at least to the point of moving its office out of the Nassau County Tax Collector’s building.

“There is a space that is expected to become available, though the exact timeframe is not known at this time due to the need to renovate other spaces and relocate some existing tenants,” Kaufman wrote in his report to the Board. “The quoted rental rate is within OHPA’s budget and will also include the ability to hold our monthly Commission meetings there at no additional charge. 

“In the meantime, the Tax Collector has agreed to allow us to utilize a small portion of our existing space until the end of February, and if necessary, they have additional climate-controlled storage space that we could use to store our files and equipment temporarily.”

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704