Saturday, November 19, 2016

No deal for Adirondack Regional Airport: Harrietstown board questions potential buyer

Marshall Schecter, right, of Montreal, talks to the Harrietstown town board Thursday about his plan to buy the Adirondack Regional Airport as his real estate agent, Allen Olmstead, listens. 



SARANAC LAKE — A Canadian man’s offer to buy the Adirondack Regional Airport from the town of Harrietstown appears to have crashed shortly after takeoff.

Marshall Schecter has been talking to town officials for the last few weeks. He told the town board Thursday that he wants to turn the airport into a private aircraft maintenance hub that would employ 150 to 200 people, one of several such facilities he’s planning to build around the world.

Town officials were leery, however, as Schecter’s proposal would mean the end of commercial and private plane service at the Lake Clear facility.

They also questioned whether Schecter’s plan was legitimate, as he was unwilling to provide the town with more information, including financial statements and even the name of his company.

Allen Olmstead of Syracuse-based Canaan Realty speaks on behalf of Marshall Schecter at Thursday night's Harrietstown town board meeting. 


Complicated

At the start of Thursday’s meeting, Supervisor Mike Kilroy noted that Schecter had given the town a series of non-disclosure agreements and said he wanted to meet with the board in a closed-door executive session. Kilroy said the town couldn’t do that under the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Law.

Allen Olmsted of Syracuse-based Canaan Realty initially spoke on behalf of Schecter. He said his client is interested in purchasing the airport and its adjacent business park, but he acknowledged that it would be a complicated deal that would take several years to complete.

“There’s a lot of moving parts that would have to come into play,” Olmstead said. “There’s leases there. There’s tenants that are there. There’s the (Federal Aviation Administration). There’s money that has been borrowed or granted from the FAA. All of that would have to be taken into consideration from the town’s standpoint.”

Another issue is that Paul Smith’s College, which gave the land to the town for the airport, would have to approve the deal, per a covenant in its decades-old agreement with the town.


Two private jets sit on the tarmac at the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear in September.


Vision

Asked by Councilman Howard Riley what his vision is for the airport, Schecter said the plan is to build roughly 500,000 square feet of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities, plus hangar space and an FBO, or fixed base operator, which provides aviation services.

“It would act as a hub for us in North America,” Schecter said. “We would fly our planes and helicopters in and out and take care of them. We’d have the same alternate in Europe, probably in Germany, and eventually one in Asia as well.”

Riley asked if Schecter already owns a fleet of planes and helicopters. Schecter said he would be “procuring them” over the next few years, but he couldn’t provide details. He said he was under non-disclosure agreements with 35 people around the world.

The operation would be private, not open to the public, but would create 150 to 200 jobs with salaries of $75,000 to $100,000, Schecter said.

Riley asked how Schecter’s operation would make any money.

“We’re not bottom line driven,” Schecter said. “It’s involved in our business operations and we fund it. It’s not a situation where someone will come in and you’ll make money on fuel and labor. It’s a central hub, strictly for our aviation.”

Schecter said the Lake Clear airport is one of two sites being considered for his North American hub. The other is in Colorado, he claimed.

Skeptical

Riley noted the airport would lose its commercial service, currently provided by Cape Air. Private plane owners who fly into Lake Clear, including those who have seasonal camps in the area, would also no longer be able to use the airport.

“But you have to look at the impact of what 150 to 200 jobs is going to do for the airport,” Schecter said. He also noted that the airport typically operates at a loss for the town.

Councilman Ron Keough said he knows some taxpayers would be happy to see the airport be sold off.

“But I have some deep reservations about losing a service to the region,” Keough said. “I know the value and need for people who fly out of Adirondack Regional Airport. There are jobs and businesses in this area that utilize that service to get all around the world.”

“I’d love to see a nice big fat check,” Kilroy said, “but if it’s going to put our people at a disadvantage, I’m with Ron. It would be nice to have that off the tax rolls; however, now we’ve got people who’ve bought (homes) here, have their planes here or use it to get to Boston. I’m a little reluctant at this stage.”

Back and forth

Kilroy also said he hadn’t seen enough detail from Schecter to make him comfortable with a potential deal.

“I know your name. I know where you’re from, but I haven’t seen any financial statements,” Kilroy said.

“You never will,” Schecter said.

“Then I think this conversation is over,” Kilroy said.

Schecter thanked the board and headed toward the door, but not before pointing at Kilroy and saying, “And never hang up on me again.”

“Good night,” Kilroy said. “Good-bye.”

“You’re arrogant,” Schecter responded.

After Schecter left, town officials said they didn’t think the proposal should go any further.

“My opinion is that ought to be the last meeting we have,” said Riley. “That airport is too important to the region.”

Airport Manager Corey Hurwitch, who didn’t speak during the meeting, said later that he gave Schecter a tour of the airport, “but as things went on, it seemed less and less likely to be legitimate.

“He didn’t seem to be concerned with the stuff that’s normal obstacles for other people. Cost never seemed to be a concern, and that’s a concern for everybody.”

Dead deal?

After the meeting, Schecter declined to provide the Enterprise with any more information about his company, even its name.

“I have many names. I don’t even want to get into it,” he said. “I’ve been vetted all around the world. (Kilroy) wants financial statements. Let me tell you something: The new president of the United States (Donald Trump) doesn’t give his financials. I don’t have to give my financials out.”

However, Schecter said he would provide necessary financial information to the FAA.

“But not the people you’re buying the airport from?” he was asked.

“Well, what do they have to know as long as they get the check?” Schecter responded.

Asked if an agreement is still possible, Schecter said not as long as Kilroy is involved.

“I’m not interested in dealing with a person like this,” he said. “So as far as I’m concerned, the deal is dead.”

Original article can be found here:   http://www.adirondackdailyenterprise.com

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