Dauphin Island: Honesty, Integrity, Transparency
**Note: To read the source documents, please click on the highlighted text embedded in the article**
The mayor is required to make all types of decisions. Sometimes those decisions have far reaching consequences that can materially affect lives, homes, and investments within our community. The entire Town hopes that all decisions made by the mayor are correct and successful.
Sometimes one does not know a wrong decision has been made until the results of that decision become known. It is easy to second guess any decision after the fact. However, when wrong decisions, having potentially disastrous effects on the interests of individuals and our community, begin to mount up while input and suggestions are ignored, it is valid to question the decision-making capability of the mayor. Several decisions made by Mayor Collier regarding how the Town is addressing our island’s shoreline problems indicate he is not up to the job.
Beginning in 2011, three articles have appeared in the Press-Register that explained the threat to the island posed by the 22 ponds excavated on the north side of the island to obtain sand to protect the island’s southern shoreline during the 2010 oil spill. The May 1, 2011 article reported “…coastal scientists say that actions taken by city leaders and property owners here during the BP oil spill may have unwittingly ensured that the next major hurricane breaks the island in half, right at the center of a heavily populated section”.
The decision to excavate the ponds was approved by Mayor Collier even though, according to the March 31, 2012 article, Dr. Scott Douglass “…warned as the ponds were being dug that they would ultimately make the island more vulnerable to breaching — breaking in two — simply because the land mass was so much thinner”. At the April 3, 2012 Town Council Agenda Meeting, Mayor Collier said he approved excavation of the ponds because he disagreed with Dr. Douglass’ views and concerns. This is a strange position for Mayor Collier to have taken since Dr. Douglass is the Town’s consulting coastal engineer who was retained by the Town because of his long-term knowledge and experience in coastal processes in general and Dauphin Island in particular. Mayor Collier has no qualifications in this highly specialized field.
To make matters worse, at Mayor Collier’s urging, the Town joined with six other landowners to request a permit from the Corps to connect the ponds with the open waters of Mississippi Sound to improve water access for their private recreational purposes. That action, if permitted, will further narrow the island and increase its vulnerability to breaching. Thus, the Town under Mayor Collier’s leadership continues to ignore the concerns expressed by coastal experts, while taking actions that increase the potential threat to homes, roads, and utilities on the island’s West End.
In the June 10, 2012 article, “…Mayor Collier said the Town does not plan to open the pond on its property to the Mississippi Sound, even if the permit is granted”. A logical person has to ask: If one does not plan to perform the work, why apply for the permit? Just two months earlier in the March 31, 2012 article, Mayor Collier said “…as far as the island goes, what we hope to do is get in the position where they [ponds] can be filled back in, if that’s what the owners want”. Mayor Collier also said “…the Town plans to include filling in the ponds as part of the larger beach nourishment project”. If the Town plans to fill the ponds, why is the Town participating in the permit to connect the ponds with the Sound? These contradictory statements leads to another question: What really is Mayor Collier’s position on the ponds? Instead of maintaining a consistent public position, he talks out of both sides of his mouth on this issue of critical importance to the stability of the island’s West End.
Because of Mayor Collier’s original involvement in the excavation of the ponds and his follow-up vacillating statements as to what should be done with the ponds, it is justifiable to question his ability to correctly prioritize shoreline restoration work. A case in point relates to the Town’s ongoing efforts to obtain a $5 million Coastal Improvement Assistance Program (CIAP) grant to place sand on the island’s East End.
While Dauphin Island’s entire Gulf shoreline is experiencing erosion, the West End is unquestionably suffering the most significant erosion and the greatest property losses. However, instead of concentrating the Town’s efforts on the weakened and more vulnerable West End, Mayor Collier is actively pursuing the East End CIAP project. Since Mayor Collier refuses to allow the public to input into the development of the Town’s CIAP proposals, a valid explanation has not been provided to explain why the East End project was selected over the West End.
Mayor Collier also played a major role in eliminating an important legal right of the +1,700 property owners included the Class Action lawsuit against the United States and the State of Alabama. That lawsuit claimed the dredged material disposal practices to maintain the Mobile Harbor ship channel were the cause of Dauphin Island’s accelerated erosion problems.
In its November 24, 2009 ruling , the Court specifically mentioned Mayor Collier’s support of the Settlement Agreement as a factor in its decision to approve the Agreement. The Agreement required all members of the Class, including the Town, to give up all rights to sue the United States and the State over future shoreline erosion issues attributed to the ship channel in return for ONLY $1.5 million. That decision carries with the title of the properties in perpetuity. Thus, all future owners are similarly affected by the Agreement even if they did not own the property at the time of 2009 Court decision. Considering the cumulative value of all of the island’s waterfront properties, does $1.5 million sound like adequate compensation for what each property owner was required to give up forever in return for that relatively small one-time payment?
Mayor Collier was quoted in the June 10, 2012 article as saying “…while the ponds could potentially be harmful, I don’t want to lose sight of the big picture. Ultimately, the shoreline restoration on the Gulf side is the main target we need to keep the focus on. That’s what the island needs”. However, Mayor Collier’s actions, decisions, and statements, indicate he is not capable of fully grasping the “big picture”. Instead, he often works against the best interests of his constituents; provides inconsistent leadership at the Town’s highest level; and is in fact doing more to harm the island by failing to manage a well-coordinated plan to restore our island’s damaged shorelines. Yes, let’s focus on the big picture.