Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Updated: Mayor Seeks Bigger Role For City In Airport Development

Fairhope, Alabama

Update: The city council decided not to take back the land but reduced its appropriations to the airport by over $100K yearly instead.

Mayor Wilson, third from right


Mayor Wilson told Airport Authority members she wanted the city to take a "more active role" in airport development plans to reduce its debt, currently about 20% of total city debt, by incorporating it in a new overall comprehensive growth plan for the city. (video at bottom)
Chairman McEnerney seated

She said "ten years are long enough" for the Authority to have sole responsibility -- and expressed "urgency" on behalf of citizens to "get it developed" (working with the Authority) to "recoup our dollars and interest ... and pay off  the debt."

Wilson is proposing the city council exercise its option to take back up to 256 acres of land surrounding the airport the city council purchased for the Authority in 2007 to develop an industrial park and provide employment so young people would not have to move away.

Council President Burrell said the city had been involved in airport planning all along (he is the current council liaison to the committee) -- but did not necessarily object to the land transfer; he warned if that happened there would be no chance of the Authority ever paying off the whole debt itself, as was originally intended in 2007.

He added that back in 2007 no one anticipated the Great Recession of 2008-11; and more-recently the Authority had been receiving considerably more revenue from land sales, new or renegotiated leases, and increased fuel fees.

parcels outlined
Wilson countered: "We payed for it ... It should be in our name (city's). I have to be responsible to the citizens (for this debt)."

"We have to be transparent with the citizens ... most had no idea what we have been spending for the last 10 years on this ... they are shocked when find out ... want to know why the city isn't doing more ... .

We are going to do more ...  won't affect FAA grants ... if the city takes a more active role in helping to develop it ... so we can take care of the debt ... 21% of city's total."


Authority Chairman Joe McEnerney said the Authority had already sought and received four proposals for refinancing their debt (to reduce the interest) and agreed about the urgency since interest rates are headed up: Wilson expressed disappointment she has not been more-involved in those discussions.

Fairhope airport authority
But, he questioned the wisdom of returning all 256 acres of the land though, because of possible issues with FAA grants already received (or applied for): about 100 acres could be returned without issue though,  McEnerney said.

Member Vincent Boothe estimated more, about 136 acres could be returned without jeopardizing the grants; Mayor Wilson countered that the grants come to the city first anyway ...  and they should not be affected at all.


The city council is to discuss the matter further at this Thursday's work session and may decide to take a formal vote at the ensuing council meeting (special holiday schedule).

(Airport Authority members are volunteers who serve without any kind of compensation.)


Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. Not knowing all the facts or background my gut instinct is that the City Of Fairhope should reclaim the entire 256 acres. Especially if the city is responsible for the debt? It's interesting that the airport authority is trying really, really hard to keep at least 150 or so acres? Why? Someone or some entity has probably been working on a deal involving the 150 acres that if undone now would result in a financial loss. I think I read in the past where wealthy individuals with private jets wanted to build their own hangers at the airport that could be leased back to them? I wonder what construction company would end up building the hangers? Anyway, as a citizen of Fairhope and taxpayer I would rather the land stay within the control of the City and not some "appointed" Airport Authority. Mayor Wilson is handling this correctly. It's kind of funny to see the board members so nervous and quiet sitting at that table when Mayor Wilson is speaking. It's almost like they where caught with their hands in the cookie jar! Sincerely, "the Fairhope Opiner."

Anonymous said...

"Not knowing all the facts or background" you have made up your mind on this. You and the facebook cult...

Anonymous said...

The airport authority board is staffed by individuals with business interests at the airport and run 100% for the benifit of those wealthy private business interests that have property and businesses at the airport. The board members could care less about Fairhope citizens. It is a corrupt joke.

Anonymous said...

the r

Anonymous said...

What does crazy Karin know about airports?

Anonymous said...

Uninformed people making serious false allegations. Fairhope, the place we all love, is starting its downward spiral. Karin's leadership is as misleading as obama's hope and change. She is uninformed. Her "leadership" style is dictatorship. Her way only. God help our little slice of paradise.

Anonymous said...

With the wealth and affluence of Fairhope city government finally being exposed, I suspect this is the tip of the iceberg. The shiny objects we've been distracted by for so long (read: flowers, lights, and parades) are finally being questioned and I don't expect them to hold up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. I have no idea why I am paying for an airport in Fairhope. I don't need one. I don't even want one. Thank you Mayor Wilson for asking these questions all of the taxpayers deserve. To be honest, I didn't anticipate this amount of concern from her, but I am very pleased.

Anonymous said...

The airport authority is needed and has many advantages. Those that are ill-informed as to the advantages and disadvantages of an airport authority should do some research or ask someone that fully understands how to run an airport.

But I am more amazed at the elected officials that were not able to answer her questions. She asked a question and no one seems to answer.

Airport authorities can borrow monies for 40 years! Airport authorities can not be sued for negligence, period, it is in plain language in the Alabama Code. Airports usually have deaths, and having an authority shields the city from liability. Yes, municipalities are immune from many suits but not negligence.

It really amazes me as to who is advising the mayor does already know the answers to the questions she asks. The first thing you learn as a leader, you should have researched the question you are going to ask, and you should already know the answer to a question before you ask that question publicly. AND you never ask the question WHY?

The airport authority has nothing to do with FAA grants, etcetera, etc., it is about liability.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the mayor should fire the board and run it herself

Anonymous said...

Mayor Wilson is correct in questioning the Board. I think using the words "crazy Karin" and "dictator" is out of line, period. Stick to the facts. The citizens of Fairhope are the owners of the Fairhope Airport, not a self-appointed airport authority board. However, I agree that someone with the correct background in running airports should be advising the Mayor about the proper way to oversee and manage an airport. I really don't see the Fairhope Airport as a place where AirBus suppliers would want to set up shop. If I owned a company that supplied parts to AirBus I would locate my business at the sprawling Brookley Air Complex next to AirBus, not at the Fairhope Airport some 30 miles from their facility. So, I think the question is, what can the Fairhope Airport be utilized for to turn a profit for the citizens of Fairhope? If I were Mayor Wilson and the City Council I would ask to meet with Mobile Airport Authority members to learn how they operate. They have been around a long time and obviously are doing something correct. Mayor Wilson can then, after receiving the facts make an informed decision as to the direction she and the Council would like to take the Fairhope Airport. Again, as Mayor Wilson stated, her first priority is to the citizens of Fairhope. Mayor Wilson, please keep asking questions! The majority of the people in Fairhope support you.....

Anonymous said...

Personally, I hope the city gets what the Mayor has asked for. Let the lawsuits begin!

Anonymous said...

Brookley has very little space left at a far higher expense than Fairhope. In Huntsville, Madison County Executive Airport (smaller than Fairhope) has 1,200 jobs with an average pay of $70,000. For the same reason Airbus suppliers would be interested in Fairhope. Airbus has discussed a paint facility ar Gulf Shores, farther than Fairhope. The airport board is made up of volunteers, only 3 are pilots, nothing to gain. The video appears to me NOT that the board look as if they are hiding something but more like "why am I putting up with this for no compensation"

Anonymous said...

The reason many tier II or III suppliers would not open up shop at the Airport is due to the lack of access to transportation. It would take many suppliers an hour before they could reach the interstate.

A tier III supplier might open up shop but there would need to be serious tax concessions. Fairhope is known for its beautiful town, not its industrial base. There are other sites with access to the interstate that many would like to relocate.

The board is all volunteers, so you get what you pay for. You can not expect those that volunteer to spend all this personal time unless there is something in it for them. When you have zero skin in the game then you don't have anything to lose.

The industrial development board and the airport authority should have a combined strategic plan that moves the airport forward. Combine the two boards, unless the authority has greater power than the industrial development board, then everyone can move in the same direction.

In order to have a strategic plan, then city really needs to define itself. So, does the city want to be a quaint town for the artist or what, I'm not sure at this point. Does anyone else really know?

The airport is uncontrolled (no tower) and the service from the FBO is not the best. Foley's airport is far better than Fairhope's but you have the same problem, the access to the interstate is at least an hour.

Anonymous said...

So the new Mayor tries to install some accountability and those against it either disparage her or claim some above it all greater than thou. The good ole boy (corrupt) past is gone in Fhope.

Anonymous said...

I think your argument is slightly flawed. The Huntsville/Madison County area is home to the Marshall Space Center and Redsone Arsenal that employs 36,000 people (1,000 military, 20,000 Government Civilians and 15,000 Government Contractors). In addition, the Huntsville/Madison County area is home to the Cummings Research Center, which is the second largest research facility in the U.S. and fourth largest in the world employing over 30,000 people from 300 companies in 9,000,000 square feet of space. I don't doubt that the Madison County Executive Airport employs 1,200 people from various businesses because space is probably at a premium due to the 65K - 70K people working in defense and research jobs at other locations around the Huntsville/Madison area. However, the Airbus facility in Mobile employs 600 people. That's not anywhere close to 65K - 70K people. So, I hardly think we can compare the Madison County Executive Airport to the Fairhope Airport. I would think outside the box and pursue other companies besides just Airbus suppliers. Regardless the City of Fairhope should reacquire the property since it belongs to the citizens. Hire a consultant that specializes in attracting business to airports. Basically, try and turn a profit and reinvest the money in Fairhope. However, I do commend the 3 board members who are pilots. I believe you have the best interest of the airport at heart.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if my argument is slightly flawed or not. Huntsville executive airport houses Ulista that employs 900 people and Sierra Nevada that has 50 employees and is hiring 500 in the next 2 years. These jobs average $70,000 a year.
These companies provide products for the military and civilian sector, not NASA.
You are absolutely correct that if the airport can develop property and create jobs this will bring revenue to Fairhope and our surrounding communities.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting, back in the day I had federal agencies that audited our company every 18 months. One examiner was being heavy handed with our management team, I took off my card that allows someone to enter the building, handed to the lead examiner, told the examiners they could clearly do a better job of running the company than me and then walked out.

Before I could get on the elevator to leave the lead examiner stop me and ask me to return to the meeting.

The meeting went much smoother, and everything was worked out.

Being a leader is never having to tell anyone of your power, they feel it in how you speak and handle yourself, silence can be deafening.

She is new at this, and this is not like running a private company, this is a public as public can get. She will learn with time, and she may surprise those that oppose her, everyone should give her a chance to lead.

Every council member, supervisor and anyone else that has knowledge should help this new mayor. That is the only right thing to do, it will be good for the city too.

I think everyone needs to smile more, and that is everyone, if faces could kill then we'd all be dead after that last council meeting.

Anonymous said...

this committee has always been a sneaky one.

Anonymous said...

Maybe our new mayor needs to look back into RDS (Revenue Discovery Systems). It checks to make sure all taxes, business license, etc. are being paid to the city. It does what it's name implies - finds revenue that is missing. The city had a contract with them several years ago, but for some strange reason cancelled it. Could it be that RDS found someone not paying what they should have and stepped on someone's toes in the "Good Old Boy's" system?

Anonymous said...

That's the problem, she wants to run everything and her knowledge in operation of a city is different than a book store. I also don't think she has the power to fire the board, but the rumors are running crazy how she is forcing out a lot of good employees. Most employees did what they were told to do. We do wish her well as we do live our city very much.

Anonymous said...

Proof? That is said never proved

Anonymous said...

Fairhope is under a strong city council, weak mayor form of government. The city council must vote to authorize the mayor to enter into contracts, etc. In the case of the land belonging to the Airport Authority, the council would have to vote to reacquire the land. The Mayor does not have the legal authority to demand it back without the city council having passed a resolution authorizing her to do so. The Mayor functions more as a COO for the CEO which is the city council. The Mayor needs an education in how local government functions, Robert's Rules of Order, Rule of law and the laws and regulations governing selection of new employees. Steep learning curve for her. And she has to be open to learning. I have not seen that intellectual curiosity displayed as yet. Fairhope has not only many knowledgeable city employees but many, many volunteers who serve on city committees that bring with them a depth of experience across many sectors including business and government.

The Airport Authority is a separate, legal entity apart from the city. It is not a city board or committee.

Anonymous said...

Finding the opposition to the Mayor quite common in Fairhope. As a 50 year resident I assure the public that the bills of the last administration are coming to the for front.The manner of finance of the city and it's lack of transparency has been a standard for decades.I for one would like to see a complete independent audit of ALL departments by an independent forensic auditor or auditing firm.The airport has been a select authority for just as long. Once ......... folded due to DEA investigations and NO convictions it just shows that no matter who is elected,the upper crust is the deciding factor

Anonymous said...

Karin is asking the right questions. No one is going to locate that far from the interstate. City has been wasting money that could help fairhope high school, which is overcrowded due to overdevelopment.

Anonymous said...

Having a Mayor asking questions publicly is great. If there are no sweetheart deals, bid rigging, or unethical practices going on, the questions would be easily, clearly and honestly answered. And everyone would know more and the City would move forward. But when name calling and slurs are hurled at those asking questions, instead of honest attempts to explain, you have to wonder. I am thankful for this new administration!