MARCO ISLAND — The three T-groins proposed to slow and reverse the erosion of the beach at Hideaway, erosion that is threatening two condominium buildings are designed and nearly contracted for, and barges are due to arrive on the island at the beginning of March.
At the same time, two seasons are approaching turtle nesting season and, the big one, hurricane season. That inexorable march of the calendar, and the on again/off again response from the county commission on funding, formed the backdrop for the meeting of the Hideaway Beach Special Tax District meeting at City Hall on Friday.
“They need to do something. There is a serious erosion problem,” said tax district Chairman Erik Brechnitz. “One good storm, and it’s going to be in their garages.” In addition to the funding issue with the county, the project is hung up awaiting final approval at the Federal level from the Army Corps of Engineers. Nothing can happen on the ground until the permit from the Corps is in hand, said Marco’s Public Works Director Tim Pinter, sitting in as city liaison to the board.
“I can’t issue a notice to proceed until that permit is issued,” said Pinter. Consultant Michael Poff of Coastal Engineering, reached by phone link in Jacksonville, updated the board on the T-groin installation project, known as the North Beach Project, including attempting to stimulate the Corps of Engineers to action.
“They’re working on it. They have 60 days to process the permit,” which means essentially the months of February and March, said Poff. “We know we’re going to extend into nesting season.” In addition to sea turtles, shorebirds and their nesting season must be taken into account and monitored to comply with environmental regulations.
The same contractor, Marine Contracting Group of Punta Gorda, that is slated to do the T-groin work at Hideaway Beach is also doing a beach renourishment project at South Beach, to be contracted and paid for by Collier County, and that contract is not yet signed, like the North Beach Project agreement, being reviewed by City Manager Jim Riviere’s office. County commissioners agreed in October to contribute dollars for the T-groins, but then voted again after the election changed the makeup of the board, with Commissioner Tom Henning switching his vote. By initially voting to fund the project, he was eligible to call for a vote reconsidering the project, and did so, joined by Commissioners Tim Nance and Georgia Hiller in deferring the project. It was referred back to the Tourist Development Council, which will meet Feb. 25 and weigh in with their recommendation, followed the next day by the next Board of County Commissioners meeting.
The Hideaway Tax District Board agreed to seek letters of support from stakeholders including tour boat operators and charter fishing captains, as well as the support of TDC vice chairman and Marco Island Marriott general manager Rick Medwedeff prior to the meetings. Brechnitz noted that they are not asking for funds to put sand on the beach renourishment but to build structures that will prevent the sand from washing away and blocking up the navigational channel.
“It saves the county real money to have the T-groins there,” he said.
Perhaps proving the adage that if you don’t show up, people will talk about you, the Hideaway board discussed the fee schedule proposed by Coastal Engineering before getting on the telephone with Coastal Engineering’s Poff, agreeing it seemed high for the size of the project. Total fees for the upcoming construction administration phase of the work would total $216,580 for a $975,000 job.
“Total professional fees will equal almost 50 percent of the project,” noted Brechnitz, including design and permitting fees already incurred, totaling $544,000. “It seems an awful lot.”
Pinter did say that the typical percentage for similar projects’ engineering and consulting work is considerably lower, and the most recent Hideaway Beach project, “with significantly more sand,” cost approximately $230,000 for a $1.7 million job. When the board did get Poff on the line, Brechnitz said they would discuss the fees in a separate conversation.
The Hideaway board’s next meeting was set, after some comparing of calendars, for Friday, March 8, at 2 p.m. in the City Hall conference room.