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A delay of at least a year in finishing the Southwest Florida International Airport terminal expansion construction project prompted elected officials to make a change. 

Port Authority Board Chair Mike Greenwell’s discussion to allow the involvement of Lee County staff in Port Authority affairs led to Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass’s motion to do exactly that. 

Commissioners voted 5-0 on May 16, granting county staff access to work with port authority staff. 

Before voting, Commissioner Brian Hamman asked for assurances that this would not create any additional burdens on Lee County taxpayers. He received those assurances from County Attorney Richard Wesch. 

Lee County Port Authority operates as a separate entity and budget from Lee County government, but the two overlap in that the elected county commissioners also serve as the Port Authority commissioners. 

The terminal expansion project, costing in excess of $300 million, fell a year behind schedule because of issues with the initial placement of steel girders. 

Atkins North America, the architect and engineer on that project, pledged $3.3 million back to the port authority to cover its losses, and the commissioners officially accepted that pledge. 

“Obviously, there’s some issues going on out here with construction,” Greenwell said. “We’ve been working real hard, behind the scenes the last month to try to get that back on track. And I think we’re getting real close to be able to do that.” 

The move is an unprecedented one, as Pendergrass said during the meeting. 

“This has been attempted in the past over the years going back the last 12 years I can testify to, and from the briefings with prior administrations, nothing ever happened,” Pendergrass said. 

Greenwell wanted it made clear the project still falls under port authority guidance, not county staff. 

“It‘s just basically a second set of eyes to help these guys out, you know, a big construction job, $300 million,” Greenwell said. “The project is a huge project. So, we want to help in any way we can. Obviously, we’re all in this together as a county, and we want to make sure our constituents have a great airport to come and go from. And we’re trying to expand that airport, it’s much needed. It was behind schedule. There were some engineering issues that needed to be worked through. And being in the construction industry, that’s just something that happens in this industry. And you got to figure out the solutions, get them fixed and get going. That’s what we’re doing.” 

The board also addressed a separate project, the construction of Concourse E. That will end up being the most expensive construction project in county history, with the budget approaching $800 million. 

Commissioners voted 5-0 granting contractor Suffolk Construction the ability to bid out the subcontractors on its own.

That process will cost about $550,000 and should begin by October.
“I’m so very excited to see how it’s going to look,” Greenwell said. “I am. I think the expansion is needed, where there’s also you know, they you have to plan these projects so far out.”

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