Friday, March 23, 2018

Walker County Commissioners fume over terms of hangar leases

The Walker County Commission expressed displeasure at the potential 40-year length of airport hangar leases at Monday's meeting, indicating they would like to find a way to start having short-term leases. 

The matter was brought up as Steve Nethery, listed as Nethery Investments, LLC, wished to assign his hangar lease at the Walker County Airport-Bevill Field to Greg Albritton. The firm constructed the hangar, according to his 2012 lease signed off by Bruce Hammrick, who was commission chairman at the time. The hangar was leased for 20 years, with the choice of an automatic 20-year renewal. 

According to that lease, the terms were similar for "other individuals who have constructed hangars" at the airport. The monthly lease was for four times the regular tie down rate, which was $25, meaning the monthly rental rate was $100 a month. Nethery paid for the utilities, insurance and maintenance. He could not assign the lease without permission of the county. 

County attorney Eddie Jackson noted that in recent years the county has been starting new leases to get out of the 20- and 40-year cycles. Old leases can only be assumed for the length of the time left on them. "They don't start with a brand new lease and date," he said. 

Chairman Jerry Bishop said, "The commission can vote on it how they want to, but I don't see tying that up for 40 years." 

Jackson said, "Those leases were in place before you got on the commission. What we're trying to do is work our way out of them by saying we're not going to give you new leases like that." 

Bishop noted that by assigning it, Albritton would have the original lease terms that could tie up the lease for decades. 

"It is assignable, and we cannot unreasonably withhold our consent," Jackson said. "You have to have a reason for it, like if he was leasing it and somebody he knew was running drugs or was financially irresponsible." If the person is able to pay the rent and is not doing illegal activities, some other factual reason would have be found. 

When Jackson pointed out that the current commission inherited the lease from a previous commission, pointing out the date and Hamrick, Bishop replied he "could read, counsel." 

District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams said, "I'm aware of other decisions made in the past by prior commissioners and it is hindering us, the current commission, from doing what we want to do, which is the right thing. But the way this is written up, we can't do nothing about it."

Bishop said the commission would not break the law, "but I would suggest we start reviewing a lot more things and change some of the things that has been done in the past. How do we do it? Get the legislators, because we don't seem to have any power here." After a pause, he said, "No, I won't be like my son. I won't take my ball and go home. But I ..." He then sighed and said, "Forty years. It shouldn't have been done. I agree." 

Jackson suggested the commission could pass a resolution that no contract be longer than three years will be considered unless extenuating circumstances exist. 

District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said the reason for the contracts went back to promoting the building of the hangars, with them reverting back eventually to the county's ownership. However, he did not know why 20 years with a 20-year renewal was put in, saying it "makes no logical sense to me." District 4 Commissioner Steven Aderholt said that "would go past the life of the hangar." 

Jackson said he could look closer to whether the length of time would go longer than any rules that limit a contract's life for the commission, as some contracts are limited to three years. He feels they probably don't fall within the limits as that would have been the case at the time. 

As Jackson was going to check into that aspect, the commission tabled the matter. 

County engineer Mike Short also noted the commission a few months ago changed the tie-down rates to $5 a day, $20 a week and $40 a month. However, Short didn't realize the monthly hangar lease rate would be tied to four times the tie-down rate. 

He said 15 hangars are in place, with a $25 fee per additional plane also charged. He said if the lease was made four times the $40 monthly rate, monthly leases for one plane would go from $100 to $160. At Aderholt's request, he said he would check what other airports were charging. 

Since the tie-down costs were on the agenda as a discussion, that matter was not officially tabled. 

Original article can be found here ➤

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