Sunday, October 9, 2016

Paulding airport board clashes with tenant on bond payments for construction

Paulding airport officials are at odds with their primary tenant over a continued refusal to make bond payments for work to prepare the county’s airport for commercial passenger service.

The Paulding County Airport Authority, which operates the airport, recently told its main tenant to honor its contract to make payments on a 2013 construction bond the county issued to enlarge the runway and taxiway area.

The work was planned to prepare the airport for commercial passenger service the company agreed to recruit. The payments total more than $397,000 on the $3.6 million bond and were scheduled to be made in February and August.

Interim airport director Terry Tibbitts said the tenant, Silver Comet Terminal Partners LLC, did not make a payment by a Sept. 28 deadline that authority attorney Tom Cable included in a letter to the company.

Tibbitts said the airport authority was counting on the company’s payment of the bonds and was unable to pay the installments when they came due.

“We do not have excess funds to make those bond payments,” he said.

The county commission paid the two installments because the county government guaranteed the bonds when they were issued. Tibbitts noted the airport authority will still owe the county the total of what it pays on the two missed installments and any future missed payments.

Silver Comet officials stated publicly earlier this year the company would not make payments until the Paulding County Board of Commissioners stopped seeking to withdraw an application for required federal approval of passenger flights.

The company, operated by Propeller Airports head Brett Smith, said in a recent letter in response to airport officials that its lease demanded the airport authority use its “best efforts” to secure federal approval for commercial service. That included working to convince the Paulding County Board of Commissioners to transfer land it was to give the airport as part of a 2014 intergovernmental agreement, according to a letter from the company to the airport authority.

The land, totaling 168 acres, includes part of the airport runway area needed for commercial service. Atlanta attorney Anthony Cochran said in a letter the company “demands” the authority secure the land because its ownership gave the county commission legal standing to argue in court against federal approval of its commercialization, Cochran wrote.

“By failing to use it best efforts to obtain transfer of the 168 acres, the airport authority made it much more difficult to obtain (federal approval),” Cochran wrote.

Paulding County Commission voted to withdraw the application in early 2015 after a new majority of commissioners who opposed the plan took office. However, the airport’s co-owner, the airport authority, continued to seek approval of commercial service. The Federal Aviation Administration has said both co-owners must make the request to withdraw.


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