When the Fairhope Airport Authority posted an overview and timeline regarding a controversial hangar lease awarded to a board member, the link to supporting documents did not work for a few days. Those documents, as well as the original timeline and written overview, are now available at www.fairhopeairport.com.
The hangar lease has been the subject of allegations of wrongdoing by local blogger Paul Ripp, whose complaints to the Alabama Ethics Commission and various legal authorities prompted the Airport Authority to hire attorney Dennis Bailey to investigate Ripp and defend against the allegations. Indeed, the supporting documents are in a folder bearing Bailey’s name.
The Ethics Commission has issued an advisory opinion saying the lease could go to board member Ray Hix because he had the best bid and did not participate in any board discussion of the project or the bids, as board members have confirmed he did not do so.
According to the Airport Authority, its timeline, overview essay and supporting documents, the bid process went like this:
In late 2014, Cedar Creek LLC and Executive Aviation approached the authority about building on two available hangar sites. The board decided to put out a request for proposals (essentially, an invitation to bid). Cedar Creek was awarded the bid for the first hangar pad and, in the ensuing months of 2015, the board began negotiations with Executive Aviation for the second pad.
Hix, co-owner of Mid-Bay Air LLC with Fairhope Municipal Judge Haymes Snedeker, joined the authority in April 2015. During the summer, the Executive Aviation deal fell through. New RFPs were sent out in September, with a mid-October deadline, to build a hangar and fuel farm on the site.
The three bidders were Mid-Bay Air, Executive Aviation Group (operated by Kel Jones but now with additional financial backing) and Terry Chapman, an individual. The rental rates were a half-cent per square foot apart, with Executive Aviation at 25½ cents, and Mid-Bay and Chapman at 25 cents. Based on the 22,250-square-foot site, the bids were $111 apart. As for the size of the hangars, Mid-Bay proposes a 10,000-square-foot hangar while the other two say theirs will be 11,000 square feet.
A couple of weeks later, Airport Authority Chairman Joe McEnerney asked for more information, sending each of the three bidders the same set of additional questions. With this new information, City Council President Jack Burrell, who sits on the Airport Authority, and board member Vincent Boothe reviewed the bids.
Burrell, in an email to McEnerney, said that because Jones added the hangar cost and the fuel farm cost together, he did so for the other two bidders for an initial investment total. The results were Mid-Bay $717,000; Executive Aviation $625,000 and Chapman $425,000.
Burrell also lowered Mid-Bay’s estimated fuel usage from 100,000 gallons to 85,000 gallons to be conservative. Executive Aviation came in at 40,000 gallons, while Chapman came in at 45,000 gallons. The Airport Authority collects a flowage fee of 7 cents per gallon, so it would make more money from Mid-Bay.
The lease does not require a bidder to guarantee how much fuel will be used.
The lease was awarded to Mid-Bay for 30 years. Because of delays to get a final advisory opinion from the Ethics Commission and then a building permit from the city of Fairhope, the hangar remains under construction.