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"Battle lines drawn between New Mexico airport users and city officials"
- From: "Stephen Irwin" <stepheni@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005 01:50:05 -0500
Monday, September 26, 2005
Battle lines drawn between airport users and city officials
By Alice Louise Wagoner
The Alamogordo (NM) Daily News
A battle is brewing between the city and airport users over the
Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport.
Now formed as an official group - the Alamogordo Airport Users Association -
and represented by lawyer Mariella Porter, the users will make a
presentation during the commission meeting Tuesday night.
At issue are the hotly debated lease agreements between the city and the
users regarding hangars. Some users have concluded the city is trying to
take away their private property. The city owns the land, and the airport
users lease the land from the city. The users claim they own the structures
(hangars) and the cement under it. Airport Manager Rudy Clarke says some of
the hangars are city property.
Some city officials say they're not trying to possess private property.
Others assert the city has a right to take over the property through
reversion clauses written in the leases.
After the June 14, 2005 commission meeting, city attorney Ken McDaniel said
some in the Federal Aviation Administration were pressuring city officials
to include clauses in the leases which would allow the city to own the
hangars. He was quoted saying the city was not anxious about "snapping up
"The city is trying to determine whether the FAA is able to require us to
get that property under the old lease clauses, or whether we have the
ability to make our own decision on that," McDaniel said.
During the June 28 commission meeting, McDaniel said he and Porter had
hammered out a lease for user Charles Diehl and were working on a lease
"that's fair for everybody."
Mike Haymes, local radio talk show personality, businessman, and owner of 10
hangars, said the city was supposed to meet with them by Sept. 1. No meeting
occurred, which is why Porter is scheduled before the commission Tuesday.
It's the first item on the agenda.
"We've been trying to propose a lease. They've made no attempt to meet with
us," Haymes said. "There's been no communication between the city and us."
Haymes said Porter fine tuned the lease created by the users and the Airport
Advisory Board, and will ask the commission whether it will accept it.
"She's going to say Sept. 1 has come and gone. Here's the lease. Now it's up
to the commission to do something," he said.
Haymes had harsh words for city management on Friday, charging City Manager
Pat McCourt with lying to the users and the city commission.
"Their agenda is to take the property," he said. "The leases are in complete
(agreement) with FAA. The leases are almost identical to leases Las Cruces
airport has. We need a new city management."
If the city succeeds in instituting reversion clauses, "then the airport's
going to be a ghost town. They'll (airport users) just tear them (hangars)
down," he said.
McCourt and McDaniel were out of town so were not available for comment,
city staff reported.
Clarke who has retained El Paso lawyer Michael Milligan, a former federal
prosecutor and specialist in employment law, said he was advised not to talk
about the airport issue. However he referred the Daily News to a letter he
sent to Mayor Don Carroll with copies to McCourt and the commissioners. A
copy of the letter was secured from one of the commissioners.
In it, he alleged the city is failing to comply with lease terms negotiated
with the users. He included an e-mail from a FAA compliance officer which
"identifies the need at lease termination to enforce the reversion clause,"
"This does not prevent us from entering into a new lease but the rate must
take into consideration the fact it is a ground lease with improvements and
that it carries a increased value justifying a lease rate for land with
improvements," Clarke said in his letter.
Clarke included a letter from the New Mexico Department of Transportation
legal staff concerning leases at publicly owned airports, and a 2002 opinion
from the state's Office of the Attorney General in which he specifically
noted reference to an anti-donation clause.
He also attached copies of two bill of sales from Frances R. Whitesell, who
sold a south hanger for $10,000 to Dan and Karen Krupovage; and a north
hanger for the same amount to Earle and Dixie Neill - both sales took place
in November 2004. A summary of the leases and two others were attached.
"I find myself in the untenable position where all the experts in the
granting agencies have given us comments which indicate that our path is
violation (sic) to normal airport operation procedures," Clarke wrote.
"Article IV speaks of 'collusion' which is a criminal term and I cannot find
nor have I been presented with any justifiable reason for not having
executed the reversion clauses when they were due."
He said he will attend Tuesday night's meeting if invited.
Barry Burke, an AAUA member, contended Friday the city has basically chosen
to ignore airport users. Yet in spite of the hard feelings, the group will
try to conduct business in a business-like manner Tuesday night, he said.
Haymes said he thinks the commission may set another deadline for the city
to meet with AAUA.
"If that deadline isn't met, if it's ignored, then I'm sure there will be a
class action suit," he said.
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