The day of reckoning for several Collier County projects — and employees — has come.
Today, commissioners are expected to take up votes on 10 of the 17 items they decided to reconsider at the December commission meeting.
Among them, a tourist development grant for erosion control structures at Hideaway Beach on Marco Island; approval of runway rehabilitation projects for the Immokalee Regional and Marco Island Executive airports; and a resolution to terminate the employment agreement with the executive manager to the County Commission.
During the vote last month, commissioners did not discuss the items or their opinions on whether they should be brought back. That discussion will take place today. Commissioner Tom Henning — who brought up most of the items — previously said he wanted to reconsider some items because of new information and because he voted on some items he now believes are not in the public's interest.
But Commissioners Fred Coyle and Donna Fiala, who voted against the reconsiderations, have said taking the items up again will incite lawsuits and could cost the county grant money.
Collier County Airport Authority Executive Director Chris Curry went to the commissioners the day after they voted to reconsider airport grants from the Florida Department of Transportation and FAA. A work stoppage could lead the county to lose $1.4 million in grant money, be liable for work done so far under the grants and could be forced to pay back millions in past grants for not living up to its obligation to maintain operational airports with the money, he said.
Monday afternoon, Curry met with members of the Airport Authority Board to discuss the possible ramifications of a reconsideration on those projects.
No major pavement work has been performed on the Immokalee Airport's runways since the airport was established in 1942, he said. The same goes for the Marco Island airport, which was established in 1975. Both runways have been rated as "very poor" by FDOT consultant Kimley-Horn. Taxiway A at the Immokalee Airport is rated even worse, Curry said.
But while the runways have been rated poorly, Marco Island Airport Manager Robert Tweedie said the FAA has not restricted the use of either airport.
"We're no where close to that," he said.
Airport Authority Advisory Board member, and former county commissioner, Frank Halas said he thought the issue with the grant was the use of taxpayer dollars and that the county should not accept the money. However, he said not accepting the money could force the project to be continued at the county's expense.
Advisory Board member James Murray said Immokalee is an important airport because it is the one county airport that is inland on higher ground.
Also up for reconsideration is Curry's contract extension and approval of his contract, as well as a change in counsel representing Curry and Immokalee Airport Manager Thomas Vergo in a lawsuit brought against them by an Immokalee airport tenant.
"I feel that the way were are headed, compared to where we were a few years ago, is positive and it has to do with the leadership we have in place," said Halas. "I think we should give the airport staff a vote of confidence from this board."
The Airport Authority Advisory Board voted 6 to 1 to give Curry a vote of confidence.
Immokalee member Floyd Crews cast the dissenting vote.