Friday, September 17, 2010

Hendry Airglades Airport - Future Sale?

Hendry County To Privatize County Airport? $400 An Hour Attorney Hired

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Hendry County has submitted Airglades Airport, located in eastern Hendry County, near Clewiston, Florida for consideration in a pre-application to the Federal Aviation Administration into the Airport Privatization Pilot Program (APPP). To process the paperwork, the county has hired an outside attorney at $400 an hour, for up to $100,000.

If accepted, Airglades will occupy the fifth and final spot in the APPP program along with applications from Chicago's Midway Airport, Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, Puerto Rico's Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, and Briscoe Field in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

A company approached Hendry officials in November 2009 and inquired about the possibility of privatizing the central Hendry county airport, one of two county-owned airports. Airglades also serves Glades county and Moore Haven, having no airports of their own.

The Aircraft Owner And Pilot Association (AOPA) says the federal program has not approved any airports for privatization since the program's beginning in 1997, and any approvals would go through many lengthy steps before actualization.

The Hendry Commission authorized spending $100,000 to attorney Peter Kirsch at an hourly rate of $400. So far, through August, Kirsch has received $55,693.11.towards the application.

$12,500 came from the Economic Development Council, Inc. (which is funded by Hendry County), and the county attorney's office used $25,000 of its funds. $62,500 is coming from the Airglades Airport (owned by the county) account for attorney Kirsch to process the paperwork involved.

If there is actually any future income, the Airglades account would pay back $37,500 to the county for the county attorney and EDC expenditures.

Airglades Airport enjoys a strategic location along U.S. Highway 27 and State Road 80, but since it ceased functioning as a military air base during World War II has not been a significant contributor to job creation or economic development despite investments by Hendry County's installation of infrastructure, new hangars, and attempts to lease buildings to private industry, including a shrimp operation that failed years ago.

The airport is midway between Clewiston and LaBelle and not in a particularly convenient location for pilots, laying among thousands of acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. cane fields in mid-Hendry county.

The county has not announced who might be a possible buyer, management company, or lease holder at the airport because of "confidentiality" provisions the Economic Development Council, under state laws that provides for secret negotiations between parties and the county. It is said that only a handful of people know exactly what is being sought by the company in question including some county commissioners.

The Hendry County Board of County Commissioners and the Hendry County Economic Development Council are hoping to find ways to bring more tax dollars and jobs to Hendry, and they believe the APPP could be a way to deliver economic development and job creation.

Supporter of the privatization program, Hendry County Administrator Judi Kennington-Korf said in a press release "Airglades is an asset to this community, and the Privatization Pilot Program only enhances its ability to pay the dividends of job creation and addition to the tax base, while embracing and diversifying our agricultural-based economy in Hendry County.''

She added, ''The County Commissioners' vision in advancing this project shows foresight and wisdom rarely seen in rural communities such as ours.''

It is unclear because of the secrecy, exactly what the proposal is and what future ramifications might be if someone buys the airport and later runs into financial trouble, or decides to eliminate the airport entirely, if allowed by FAA rules or county agreements. And what might the county lose in future income resulting from a sale to a private company.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:40 AM

    This is a great idea. Private/public airports are the wave of the future for aviation. Privatization leads to higher tech investments and allows aviation operators the ability to provide higher paying jobs. This is not a new concept, Canada uses this model.