Airport hangar tenants push further lease discussion

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Representatives of airport hangar tenants concerned with a lease created by the Gallia Commissioners asked commissioners to consider further negotiations of lease terms Thursday during the regular commissioner meeting after claiming lease terms do not meet rules for federally-obligated airports.

Tenants of hangars based at the Gallia-Meigs Regional Airport previously visited the Gallia Commissioners in October last year after the commissioners created a lease for hangar tenants after reportedly a decade of leaseless arrangements. Tenants said they were concerned that the proposed rents were too high, hangars were not being maintained, the lease did not meet federal stipulations and more.

Commissioners said traditional airport protocol and property was being abused so they had the right to tighten rules on the facility as the owners of the property.

Concerned tenants continued to assert that because the commissioners had accepted federal grant money in the past, the airport was bound by certain federal rules, thus the airport was “federally-obligated.”

Bruce Postlethwait, of Middleport, represented the tenants and pilots along with Dan Riegle, another pilot.

“KGAS (the airport’s Federal Aviation Administration designation) were promised the lease terms would be discussed with and negotiated by Mr. Ryan Elliot as representative for the users and the Gallia County Commissioners after the first lease was wisely and correctly tabled for glaring issues,” said Postlethwait about the discussion in October. “The few remaining users at KGAS approved of Mr. Ryan discussing airport user lease issues on our behalf. The promised meeting never happened and another lease document was sent to KGAS users in mid-December 2017. At the commissioners meeting regarding issues with the first lease, the lack of communication was discussed as an ongoing problem, yet it continues yet into another flawed document.”

While Elliot was unable to attend the Thursday meeting due to work obligations, commissioners contended that Commissioner Brent Saunders had met with Elliot previously to negotiate lease concerns. Riegle and Postlethwait did not feel term leases had been negotiated satisfactorily and were under an opinion differing from the commissioners. Saunders said that while he had met with Elliot previously he had intended to follow up with him again but had not been able yet.

Among some of Postlethwait and Riegle’s chief concerns were that they felt the lease was at times vague in its legal definitions and penalties. As example, Postlethwait contended that a passage of the lease contract said pilots could be held liable for “excessive power usage.” Postlethwait felt the contract did not define what excessive was. Postlethwait was concerned that the lease “lacks anything in regard to user rights and privileges.”

Commissioner Harold Montgomery contended that the Gallia Prosecutor’s Office had researched and written the lease. Commissioner David Smith said prices on rents had been raised in order to keep up with growing inflation and that the commissioners did own the airport and it was their responsibility to make certain its rules were followed.

“I would tell you this is a county-owned airport,” said Commissioner David Smith, pilot and also a hangar airport tenant. “I understand some of what you’re saying with the FAA and being obligated, but it is a county-owned airport and as such is county property. As such, the county commissioners are responsible and must set rules, whether you accept that or not. We do not abdicate that or when we sign on those grant agreements. That’s my opinion.”

Postlethwait brought forth concern of a building on the airport property utilized by Gallia Sheriff’s Office and its legal status. Smith contended that the building was not a sheriff’s office building but used for county storage and maintenance and paid for in-part by the sheriff’s office when it was constructed.

“If it’s not done properly, we’ll try to make sure it is done property,” said Smith. “It is set way back. It’s far away from the protected area of the runway.”

Postlehwait said that the pilots would likely not sign the lease as it currently stood and asked for further negotiation with the commissioners. Commissioners said the designated meeting time allotted to the tenants in the meeting had been used. No decision was reached regarding whether the commissioners would or would not continue negotiations. Montgomery said commissioners would continue speaking with legal counsel.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342 or the Gallipolis Daily Tribune Facebook page.

By Dean Wright