COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - It's your money, and FEMA is taking $11.1 million away from Collier County. The agency gave the money to the county to help with damages from Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005. The county renourished beaches from Naples north to Vanderbilt Beach for a total cost of $21 million. The beach is the county's biggest draw and the reason tourism is the number one industry. It brings in $1.6 billion each year and is critical to the local economy.
"Our beaches are our number one priority in Collier County," said Nick Casalanguida, Collier County's Growth Management Administrator.
Now, FEMA has come back to the county saying it wants that $11.1 million back.
"An initiative that started in 2011 where they went through and scoured all the applications for any inconsistencies," said Casalanguida. "They recouped all their dollars on what I would call minor inconsistencies."
County officials say its not the only community affected. FEMA is also trying to recover $275 million statewide and $800 million nationwide. If Collier County has to pay up, that money would come out of reserves.
"Collier County is in a good position with reserves if we have to pay it but it does hamstring us if there's a major need over here," said Casalanguida.
County leaders will join other local governments in June in Orlando and ask them to join their fight against FEMA. They hope to protect local dollars in case another storm like Hurricanes Wilma or Katrina strikes again.
Wink News contacted leaders in both Lee and Charlotte Counties. They say FEMA has not asked for any money back from them, yet.