After conducting research and interviews as they considered four proposals, an evaluation committee has elected to recommend to the Marina Advisory Board and the Fernandina Beach City Commission that Oasis Marinas LLC take over management of the Fernandina Harbor Marina.
Concerns were raised over the past year about the performance of Westrec Marinas, the company that took over management of the facility in 2010. City Commissioner Chip Ross said he does not believe Westrec has properly maintained the marina, so earlier this year the city issued a Request For Proposals to manage the marina.
The city received five proposals, and City Manager Dale Martin had financial consulting firm Stantec evaluate them. The company based its evaluations on financial concerns and recommended Oasis Marinas.
Oasis then made a lengthy presentation to the MAB, but that body recommended the city retain the services of Westrec. The marina has not been fully functional for several years and has not had fueling services since Hurricane Matthew severely damaged the facility in 2016. The MAB reasoned the city should allow Westrec to operate a fully functional marina in order to honestly evaluate the company’s performance.
The City Commission appro-ved Oasis by a 4-1 vote. Vice Mayor Len Kreger cast the dissenting vote, saying the city relied on Stantec’s recommendation instead of creating an evaluation committee as was required, according to the RFP that was issued.
In response, Martin reconsidered the city’s reliance on Stantec’s recommendation and formed a committee to evaluate the proposals, with City Attorney Tammi Bach, Comptroller Pauline Testagrose, Airport Manager Nathan Coyle, and MAB member Coleman Langshaw serving as members. The committee met Aug. 13 to discuss their evaluations of the management proposals and make a recommendation.
Five proposals were originally submitted and were to be evaluated, but Coastal Marine withdrew its proposals after the interview process. Only one company, Safe Harbor Marinas, submitted a proposal to lease the marina from the city. Westrec did not submit a proposal.
Committee members based their evaluations on three criteria – technical capabilities, previous experience running a marina, and financial considerations – ranked each proposal using a numerical scoring system that indicated the proposal “did not address” the marina’s needs, had “significant deficiencies,” had “some deficiencies,” “meets requirements/expectations,” “slightly exceeds expectations,” or “greatly exceeds expectations.”
Oasis came out on top with a score of 347.5 and was followed by Founders 3 Marina Management at 271.5, Mobius Marine Management at 229.5, and Safe Harbor at 228.
In addition to studying the proposals, committee members checked the companies’ references and received input from the MAB and community members. In addition, Bach said that Ross provided them his own comments about the proposals. The committee also interviewed representatives from all the companies.
Repairs and upgrades to the marina are expected to be completed this year, and Bach said she took an expected uptick in marina revenues from slip rentals and fuel sales into account when analyzing the firms’ financial projections. Coyle said that, from a technical standpoint, Oasis and Founders 3 both had strong cases, including innovation, marketing and smart planning. Both Testagrose and Coyle had serious concerns with Safe Harbor’s proposal to lease the marina, such as the company having complete control over the marina. Testagrose that that, for her, “It really does come down to the money.”
Langshaw was formerly the manager of the Fernandina Harbor Marina. He said the most important part of managing the facility is customer service. He said he found Oasis and Founders 3 very close.
“They both have good experience,” Langshaw said. “Their staff training component went into great detail. The quality of marina operations starts with the staff, the ability to be great stewards but also ambassadors. You can have a difficult situation at the docks but if you have good staff and you’ve done a good job. It’s saved us in times past.”
The recommendation of the committee will be presented to the MAB at its Aug. 24 meeting, and that board will make a recommendation to the City Commission, which is scheduled to choose a proposal at its Sept. 1 meeting.