Friday, March 23, 2012

Belle Plaine council calls for termination of fixed base operator’s contract

On recommendation of the Airport Commission, the Belle Plaine City Council has unanimously voted to terminate Glenn Speas’ contract as airport fixed base operator. This followed Speas’ reported verbal intent to resign, given on March 19.

The vote came at the March 19 council meeting following a work session in which Airport Commission chairman Curtis Brown outlined cause for Speas’ termination, which according to contract will be effective 90 days after notification. Speas is the owner of Speas Aviation Inc., Grinnell, and has been the airport’s fixed base operator since April 2004.

Brown said during a March 8 fire extinguisher inspection, he and Airport Commission member Bruce Gapstur found that an aircraft owned by Speas was being spray painted in the main hangar while the furnace was operating, creating a hazardous situation and potential damage to the furnace and hangar.

“The commission felt those are very serious situations, and we don’t want to put anyone or anything in jeopardy,” Brown said, noting the incident was the commission’s main concern and reason for its recommended action.

Brown also provided a list of airport needs the commission says have not been addressed, including fuel farm inspection and completion, installation of a beacon light on the co-op bin and IDOT inspection verification. The fuel farm is currently inoperable, meaning pilots are unable to fuel up in Belle Plaine.

The Airport Commission contacted Speas about the painting incident and held a special meeting March 12 in which members unanimously voted to recommend contract termination. The city council must give final approval.

The Airport Commission will meet soon to discuss its next steps and to ensure that items in need of attention are taken care of, Brown noted.

Mayor Dave Fish stated, “I’d like to thank you guys for pursuing this and getting the airport back to where we want it, and that’s a first-class facility that people can use.”

Speas is under separate contract with the city to operate a crop spray business from the airport. He also has a five-year lease for use of a chemical spill pad he built with his own funds in 2010. The spill pad is required since the airport is in a flood zone, Brown told the council.

Speas’ termination as fixed base operator does not affect the crop spray contract or spill pad lease, Brown later explained.

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