Thursday, December 27, 2012

Federal Aviation Administration moving some operations to Flagler County Airport (KXFL), Palm Coast, Florida

PALM COAST — The Federal Aviation Administration will move some of its operations to leased space at the Flagler County Airport after stopping its training sessions at its management center in Palm Coast.

The FAA has agreed to lease a portion of the old Ginn hangar at the airport for a little more than $8,000 per month for one year with an option for a second year, said Sally Sherman, deputy county administrator, said in a phone interview Thursday. The FAA is leasing space for up to 16 staff members at the old Ginn hangar, she said.

That means the FAA will maintain some presence in the county even though it stopped training on Dec. 21 at its Palm Coast facility, which it leased from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The closure of the FAA facility in Palm Coast eliminated 80 to 100 jobs in the city as well as the economic boost from the approximately 150 people who train there on an average week. The FAA has leased the facility for its Center for Management and Executive Leadership from Embry-Riddle since 1987.

"No more training will occur at CMEL and staff working in Palm Coast ... " an FAA spokeswoman wrote in an email this week.

Embry-Riddle president John Johnson said this week that the FAA will remain at the Palm Coast facility winding down operations until Feb. 4 and then turn the center over to the university. The center's campus at 4500 Palm Coast Parkway SE resembles a hotel with 198 rooms and eight classrooms, as well as a swimming pool.

Johnson said the university does not have any plans to sell the facility and is exploring options. Embry-Riddle has discussed using the facility as part of a joint degree program with Daytona State College, which has a campus nearby, Johnson said.

The FAA said last month that the training that was taking place in Palm Coast would be moved on an interim basis to the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City until it begins a new training program in fall 2013.

But the FAA will move a portion of its local operations for at least a year to the former Ginn hangar at the Flagler County Airport. The county built the $2-million hangar and office at the airport for Ginn, the original developer of the Hammock Beach Resort, which signed a 20-year lease in 2006. But Ginn stopped paying its $18,385 monthly rent in May 2009 for the 10,000-square-foot hangar. The county still owed approximately $1.8 million on the construction loan for the building.

In April 2010, the county and Ginn settled a lawsuit that called for Ginn to pay the county $13,000 to cover 2010 property taxes on the hangar and offices. Ginn Development also agreed to pay $7,575 for the county's legal costs. Ginn also lost its security deposit of $16,664.

Palm Coast seemed destined to lose the FAA facility earlier this ear. When the FAA put out its initial request for a new training center it drew up a requirement that excluded Palm Coast from even competing to keep the training center. That's because the FAA's original request wanted its new facility to be within 25 miles of one of the following airports: Kansas City International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport; Denver International Airport; Los Angeles International Airport; General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wis.; and Orlando International Airport.

Kansas City appeared to be a leading site to land the training center. But then Mica intervened and the FAA stopped its search in March. Mica and local officials argued that closing down the center in Palm Coast would do further damage to a community already struggling with one of the highest unemployment rates in Florida.

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