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September 17, 2010

 

Airport hangar lease raises questions

Legislators are considering putting the lease out to bid instead of giving it to flight school

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
Legislators are requesting an exact accounting of the Cortland County Airport’s fiscal standing as they prepare to determine whether to lease the main hangar out to a flight school for the next five years.
At Thursday’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting, legislators passed a resolution that would terminate the lease held at the hangar by David Jones, effective Sept. 30.
Legislator Newell Willcox (R-Homer) was opposed.
The full Legislature will vote Sept. 23 on the resolution.
Another resolution to allow 7:47 Aviation owner Jim Spaller to lease the space for the five years will likely be pulled as legislators decide whether they should instead put the lease out to bid.
The lease termination requires Jones to pay approximately $3,000 still owed for leasing the space, said County Attorney Ed Purser.
At the meeting, Legislator Susan Briggs (R-Cortlandville) pressed for an accounting of the airport’s profits and losses for the year to date.
The information will be provided by Monday, said Airport Manager Bob Buerkle.
Briggs questions if the lease can be turned over to Spaller without the county going out to bid first, saying she has received calls from constituents who asked why they were not given the opportunity to lease the space.
At the Legislative session, Purser will issue an opinion on whether the county should go out to bid for the lease but he said he does not think it is necessary.
“We have an ongoing operation there,” Purser said.
Purser added that if the county had to go out to bid each time it wanted to lease one of the 36 hangars, it may end up getting less revenue.
Leasing the space to Spaller ensures a continued revenue stream as well as the potential expansion of the flight school.
But Briggs thinks that going out to bid for the lease is fair.
“In fairness to the county and in fairness to anybody else out there who might have an interest I believe it is in everybody’s best interest to seek out anyone who has an interest,” Briggs said.
Jones, who owns a repair shop at another hangar at the airport, leases the space for $980 per month.
Spaller, who subleases office space at the hangar, would continue to pay that fee until next Oct. 1, when it will increase by 1.5 percent. Each year the rental costs will continue to climb 1.5 percent.
Jones did not return a phone call for comment by press time.
Buerkle says allowing Spaller to take over the lease guarantees the county a revenue stream of approximately $30,000 for the next five years. This figure includes rental fees and gas purchases.
For Spaller, taking over the lease would allow him to expand his operations while continuing the business at the airport.
Buerkle, who has accounted for the profits and losses at the airport every year, said he expects to be on target to turn a profit this year though he could not estimate how much.
“I did an update earlier in the year and we were fine,” Buerkle said.
Last year officials projected the airport to operate at a profit of about $17,000 in 2010.

 

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