Fiala plans tactical move to preserve county grant to restore Hideaway Beach

This fallen mangrove on Hideaway Beach's eroded area shows the degradation addressed in May 2012 by Marco Island's City Council. Council declared an emergency in the area to speed up permitting for erosion control. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

This fallen mangrove on Hideaway Beach's eroded area shows the degradation addressed in May 2012 by Marco Island's City Council. Council declared an emergency in the area to speed up permitting for erosion control. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

Donna Fiala, Collier County commissioner.

Photo by submitted

Donna Fiala, Collier County commissioner.

Tom Henning 
 District 3 Commissioner 
 Collier County Commission

Tom Henning District 3 Commissioner Collier County Commission

The Collier County Commission meets beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the commission chambers at the county government complex, corner of Airport-Pulling Road and U.S. 41 East.

Sand washing away from Hideaway Beach is causing tides to come dangerously close to two condominium foundations. Marco Island City Council voted in May to declare an emergency and assist the self-taxed district in deploying erosion control measures. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

Sand washing away from Hideaway Beach is causing tides to come dangerously close to two condominium foundations. Marco Island City Council voted in May to declare an emergency and assist the self-taxed district in deploying erosion control measures. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

— It's all about strategy.

Strategy is behind a move by Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala to ask for reconsideration of a 4-1 vote to spend $925,000 in tourist taxes to fight erosion on a stretch of Hideaway Beach on Marco Island.

Fiala voted for the controversial grant, but she's not having second thoughts. Instead, she wants to force a reconsideration vote today before the commission leadership changes and the outcome on the issue could be different.

Once a vote has come up for reconsideration and failed, it can't be reconsidered again, according to county rules. That's what Fiala is counting on.

She expects her request for reconsideration to fail today and wants to stop Commissioner Tom Henning from making the same motion and getting it on the next meeting's agenda after a newly elected member, Tim Nance, comes aboard in December to replace Jim Coletta and could reverse the vote.

"I figured to beat him at his own game I would file a motion to reconsider it," she said, referring to Henning. "If I don't get three votes to reconsider, then the issue would be dead."

At a meeting in late October, Henning spoke against the grant, questioning the legality of spending tourist tax money on a stretch of beach that's so secluded and hard to reach without a boat. But ultimately he voted for it.

In an email Monday, Henning said he planned to make a motion to reconsider, but didn't say when he planned to do it.

"Doesn't matter what Fiala does, it's an unlawful expenditure," he wrote.

Commissioner Georgia Hiller voted against the grant, saying the way it was presented would be an illegal use of tourist tax money.

Fiala said she feared Hiller, Henning and Nance would form a new voting bloc on the commission and that the trio, if given the opportunity, would reverse the grant approval, which required a supermajority vote of four out of five commissioners.

Nance said he didn't know enough about the grant to comment.

"I have not thoroughly investigated it," he said. "I will consider everything and do the best I can."

Fiala is counting on the two other commissioners who voted for the grant to oppose the motion to reconsider. Fred Coyle, the commission chairman, and Coletta said Monday they have no reason to support a reconsideration, as they both believe the decision they made was the right one.

"I'm still in favor of renourishing beaches and stopping erosion," Coyle said. "It's certainly permitted under our ordinances so I don't see any reason why it should be overturned."

Outgoing commissioner Coletta said: "I think that the Hideaway decision was a good decision. There is access there at Tigertail Beach Park and they even put a rest room there to accommodate the public."

Commissioners have voted three times to spend so-called "bed taxes" on Hideaway Beach in a fight to keep the beach from washing away. Each time, questions arose about whether public money should be spent on what some describe as a private beach.

To approve the grants, commissioners had to find there was a "public interest" in spending the money, which comes from a 4 percent charge on hotel and other vacation stays in Collier County.

The latest grant would help pay for installation of three erosion control devices on the east end of Hideaway Beach.

If Fiala's strategic move backfires today and her motion is approved, the actual vote to reconsider wouldn't happen until Nance is on the commission.

"I just wanted to make sure that this subject that is so very important to the people at Hideaway Beach doesn't get swept under the carpet," she said. "I wanted to try to ensure that it's not thrown under the bus."

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features