Fernandina Beach to use money from gas tax to hire Ocean Rescue supervisor

5-cent gas tax approved by county commissioner to go into effect Jan. 1

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Cities in Nassau County are deciding what they will do with the revenue from a newly approved 5-cent gas tax that will go into effect at the start of next year. 

The Nassau County Board of Commissioners said it wanted to approve the gas tax so the money could go toward road and construction projects, but the city of Fernandina Beach wants the money to go toward Ocean Rescue.

Commissioners agree Ocean Rescue is a top priority, so nearly half of the money that they expect Fernandina Beach to make will go toward a supervisor position within Ocean Rescue.

Known for its pristine coast, Fernandina Beach attracts 500,000 tourists in a year. Resident Deb Eastman said the growth in Fernandina Beach has been noticeable in the last few years.

"We have so many tourists, so many people coming through," she said.

The amount of people flocking to Fernandina Beach is why the county says hiring a supervisor within the Ocean Rescue Division is a must. 

"We have so many people coming to visit the area who need to have safety measures, have lifeguards. You need to have Ocean Rescue," Eastman said. "You need to have it or we're asking for problems if you don’t."

The city of Fernandina Beach expects to bring in $128,000 from the gas tax, which goes into effect on Jan. 1. Of that money, $65 thousand will go to the Ocean Rescue supervisor position.

The remaining money will go other places if needed and into the reserves.

Locals said they were told by the county the money from the gas tax would go toward roads and construction. When they learned what Fernandina Beach is doing, some had mixed opinions.

"Gas tax money should go to constructions, roads," resident Sharrod Williams said.

Beach resident Gary Menso said, "I think the tax for Ocean Rescue out here is a good deal, doesn't hurt anything."

The Ocean Rescue supervisor position was cut back from the city's payroll during the recession.

Since then, the Fernandina Beach Fire Chief told News4Jax, people have been covering that position while doing their responsibilities but with all the city’s growth, it’s been hard to keep up. So he said he's grateful the commissioners agreed revenue from the gas tax can cover that position. 

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