The Fairhope Airport Authority and Continental Aerospace Technologies have agreed to negotiate lease terms at the H.L. Sonny Callahan Airport, where Continental serves as the fixed-based operator (FBO) and as a landlord for approximately 30 aircraft owners. As Lagniappe previously reported, Continental initially signed a 50-year lease at Fairhope in 1995, but the Authority was within days of terminating the lease due to several alleged deficiencies Continental was advised of last year.
In response, an attorney representing Continental accused the Authority of fostering a “private club atmosphere for the benefit of its pilot cronies” and voluntarily offered to terminate the lease. The Authority accepted the offer, but then the company, represented by a different attorney, reneged. The Authority filed a lawsuit to enforce the original letter, but Continental fought back, threatening to evict some 30 tenants if the Authority did not withdraw its complaint by Jan. 24.
Just before the deadline last week, the Authority met in a special called meeting and voted to negotiate with Continental. Earlier, Continental attorney Will Skinner of Los Angeles sent a proposal for the parties to meet and discuss outstanding issues no later than Feb. 14.
“In exchange for the Airport Authority’s commitment to meet with us and negotiate in good faith, Continental will notify all hangar tenants by letter, emailed today, that it is extending its notice of termination pending the outcome of our negotiations,” Skinner wrote. “The letter will explicitly state that no tenant need move their aircraft before March 31.”
In exchange, the Authority agreed to delay action on terminating Continental’s lease and to extend the deadline for Continental to respond to the lawsuit.
“We are optimistic that a meeting between Continental and the Airport Authority will be productive and allow the parties to resolve all outstanding disputes and litigation,” Skinner wrote.
The Authority is currently seeking a state transportation grant to build its own FBO on the opposite side of the airport from the Continental facility, where Authority Chairman Don Lagarde said there is more room for growth and development. He previously said while Continental’s service and employees at the airport are adequate, the existing FBO facility is small and outdated.
Although the Authority has agreed to negotiate with Continental, Lagarde said Tuesday it will continue to plan to operate its own FBO.
“We established a committee of two board members so if Continental does leave the field, at any point for any reason, we know what we need to do to operate the FBO and manage hangars,” he said.
The construction of a new FBO will depend on whether the Authority can secure as much as $1.5 million in additional funds to match a $600,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation. Lagarde said bids for the project will be opened next week, but any financing will have to be approved by the Fairhope City Council.
This page is available to our subscribers. Join us right now to get the latest local news from local reporters for local readers.
The best deal is found by clicking here. Click here right now to find out more. Check it out.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here