Marco Island airport contractor: Collier must negotiate before proceeding with $1.2M lawsuit

A contractor hired by Collier County to build a new airport terminal at the Marco Island Executive Airport filed a motion last week to put on hold a $1.2M lawsuit filed by the county.

In the motion, the Florida-based contractor West Construction Inc. alleges the county has not requested to negotiate or a mediation "in good faith" to resolve disputes with the company.

Collier County sued West Construction Inc. and its insurance company Philadelphia Indemnity last month for the delayed completion of the $9.5 million terminal building. 

The lawsuit filed March 17 in Collier Circuit Court against West Construction and its insurance company Philadelphia Indemnity demands $1.2 million plus other costs and fees.

In case you missed it:Collier County files $1.2M lawsuit over delayed completion of Marco Island airport terminal

"Despite being responsible for planning, organization, supervision, management, control and coordination of work performed on the project, West continually failed to satisfy these responsibilities in breach of the agreement," the county's lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges other contract violations like failing to protect internet and sanitary utilities during construction, failing to maintain permits necessary for the work, and "attempting to manipulate the schedule and the project's critical path to obtain additional time to achieve substantial completion and, in turn, limit exposure to liquidated damages."

The lawsuit also alleges that West Construction and Philadelphia Indemnity have failed to pay liquidated damages allegedly owed to the county.

Connie Deane, community liaison with Collier County, and Bill Procopio, assistant vice president of corporate communication with Philadelphia Insurance, declined to comment. 

Loren & Kean Law, the law firm representing West Construction, did not respond to a request for comment.

Attorney fees go up

The Board of County Commissioners voted April 13 to authorize an increase in the purchase order for attorney Carlton Fields by $200,000 to "provide continued construction litigation representation" in the case against West Construction and Philadelphia Insurance.

In June of last year, the board authorized a separate increase of $100,000 for Fields' outside counsel "involving the construction of the new terminal facility, runway apron and associated safety improvements at the Marco Island Executive Airport."

Fields provides the county with "professional specialized legal services," with particular expertise in construction law, litigation, appellate matters, utilities, land

use, property rights, the county's Growth Management Plan and related administrative, executive, and judicial hearings, appeals, negotiations, and county related committee work, according to the county's retention agreement with the law firm signed in 2018.

The lobby of the new terminal at the Marco Island Executive Airport, photographed on Monday, March 1, 2021.

Collier County retained the law firm of Carlton Fields to assist as co-counsel to provide specialized construction law-related assistance on this project on Feb. 22, 2019, according to a county executive summary.  

"Despite county staff’s best efforts, the contractor on the project, West Construction, Inc., fell well behind the 320 calendar days that Agreement No. 18-7240 required West to achieve Substantial Completion. In fact, West did not achieve substantial completion until Jan. 22, 2021 over a year and half after the date required under the agreement," a county report states.

Substantial completion is the date when construction is sufficiently complete so the county can utilize the building for its intended use. 

"During the course of that period, staff worked with Carlton Fields to utilize outside experts with specialized skills in scheduling and materials installation knowledge to manage and document the performance issues and delays caused by West," the report states.

On March 17, the county filed a two count civil complaint arising out of West Construction's alleged delays on the airport project. The first count is against West Construction for breach of contract and the second is against Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company for breach of bond. 

"It is difficult at this time to ascertain with particularity how much outside counsel fees may total in this case due to uncertain variables," the report states.

Airport continues to expand

The new terminal opened its doors to the public on March 8 after almost two years of delays.

The two-story, 16,000-square-foot terminal was built to make the airport compliant with Federal Aviation Administration safety regulations,  Andrew Bennett, interim executive airport manager with Collier County, said last month

"The primary objective of the project is pertaining to safety to allow more room for aircraft to maneuver in and out, while also addressing capacity needs to accommodate a greater number of aircraft during the peak season months," Bennett said.

Bennett said the terminal includes features such as pilot and passenger lounges, flight planning stations, rental car concessions, airport administrative offices and office space for flight schools and other companies.

Administrative offices at the new terminal at the Marco Island Executive Airport, photographed on Monday, March 1, 2021.

The first phase also included construction of new parking spaces, landscaping, lighting and stormwater retention features.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new terminal will be held at 11 a.m., April 28, the county announced.

A second phase costing an additional $3.7 million is underway to improve the airport's apron where aircraft are parked. The old 4,500-square-foot terminal built in the 1970s was demolished in March to make room for the new apron space.

The contractor of the second phase is Quality Enterprises.

"The second phase will be approximately 95% complete by April 28," Deane wrote in an email Friday. 

The Florida Department of Transportation provided 80% funding for the Marco Island terminal construction project, totaling $8,511,520 for design and construction. Phase two of the project had additional grant funding from FDOT and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bringing the total grant funds awarded to the county for phase one and two to $11,895,763, according to a county report.

Another project involves a 40-year lease of a parcel at the airport of approximately 117,588 square feet for the construction and use of four steel buildings consisting of 11 aircraft hangar units.

In 2019, the company Marco Hangars agreed to pay $58,794 annually for the "construction and subsequent operation of aircraft hangars for sublet or operation of aircraft hangar condominium units, including office space and/or related aviation facilities," according to the contract.

Marco Hangars would not have to start paying rent until the county gives it permission to use the hangars for their intended use, and it will have the right to submit the premises, or a portion of them, to a "condominium form of ownership."

"The construction commenced in January with completion anticipated in fall 2021," Deane wrote.

Contact Omar at omar.rodriguezortiz@naplesnews.com, and follow him on Twitter as @Omar_fromPR. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.