Monday, October 18, 2021

Runways and Renourishment




Donna Fiala


Many things are happening around the County; some are quite controversial. I usually stay away from government talk, but today, through a little encouragement, I will write about what happened with the Marco and Immokalee Airport runway resurfacing and also about the Hideaway Beach/Collier Creek erosion control structures.

Last year, the Airport Director, Chris Curry (who will be the speaker at the Marco Kiwanis Club on Thursday, Feb. 21st) advised the County Commission that the FDOT had determined that both airport runways were in “very poor” condition and would need resurfacing within the next few years. The FAA advised to get the process going and request grant dollars (which take a while to receive) to support the project. The Airport Director did exactly that, then asked and received approval to move forward with the design study for the project. He also received notification that he would receive an FAA grant for 90 percent of the job and the FDOT advised they would grant us 5 percent toward the project. So, with 95 percent in grants in tow, we proceeded to hire the firm to do the design work.

At the first BCC meeting in December when the new commissioner was seated, many, many issued were “reconsidered.” The airport resurfacing was one of them. The majority of three said the work, which had a contract and was already in progress, must stop immediately for both airports and nothing could move forward until they discussed it in January. When the FAA was advised soon afterward, they said if the project were stopped and voted against in January, they would pull their grant dollars and would also require the county to return previous grant money received. Plus, the county would find it difficult to receive any future grant dollars from FAA and when they would require the resurfacing in the next few years our taxpayers would have to cover the cost. The next day of the BCC meeting, the immediate stop work order was removed and the work was allowed to continue. At the first meeting in January, the commission voted to continue the process for both airports.

Meanwhile, one commissioner sent a letter to Chris Curry, the Airport Director, stating that he intended to ask for his termination at the January 8 meeting. Instead, he moved to eliminate the new contract for Mr. Curry that included a two-year extension to his contract which ends in September 2013, and received the other two votes needed to accomplish that. Yours truly was NOT one of those two. Mr. Curry was the first Airport Director that I can remember who brought professionalism and business into the management of the airports. This was his reward. Hopefully, before the time his contract ends, at least one other commissioner will realize what a gem we have in this man and vote with the other two to extend his contract.

Hideaway Renourishment:

Hideaway Beach seems to be mentioned with regards to “renourishment,” but the truth is: the City of Marco Island and Hideaway Beach are requesting Erosion Control Structures (T-groins) to be installed before Hideaway Beach renourishes its own beach. They are not asking for ANY dollars to put sand on their beach. The City of Marco Island wants to keep the pass for boaters open on Collier Creek so that the new sand to be put on Hideaway doesn’t erode right back into Collier Creek and then Collier Bay, (which supports about one third of Marco boat traffic) the way it has been doing, which then causes another dredging to take place with TDC dollars to keep the pass open. So where do we want to spend Tourist Tax Dollars (TDC)? On dredging or erosion control structures? Both are for the boating community. It just makes sense to install the T-groins rather than continued dredging every couple of years. As it stands now, three commissioners do not want to spend the TDC dollars to build the structures. I pointed out at the last meeting that the sand about to be dredged from Clam Pass was to be put on the badly eroded private beach of Pelican Bay, which has no access. I questioned why Pelican Bay could receive the sand and the City of Marco Island could not even receive erosion control structures to keep the boating pass open. The others decided to see what value Pelican Bay would receive and possibly give credits for the T-groins. We’ll see what happens on that shortly.

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