Talks between Tri-Cities Regional Airport and main contractor have broken off

Hank Hayes • Feb 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE - Mediation talks over an operating lease between Tri-Cities Regional Airport and its main general aviation contractor have broken off, TCRA’s legal counsel said Wednesday.

Attorneys for Tri-City Aviation (TCA) “ended the mediation,” TCRA legal counsel Bill Bovender said.

“We’re disappointed (the talks) weren’t successful...We haven’t determined what we should do next,” Bovender said.

Late last year, airport commissioners moved toward either modifying or terminating its lease with TCA, which has been doing business with the airport for nearly 40 years. A new operating lease had gone into effect with the operator in April 2003.

TCA, according to airport officials, had been in default of its lease by failing to meet a $750,000 capital investment in aircraft hangar facilities, not spending $30,000 per year on marketing and imposing a ramp fee on certain aircraft without Airport Commission approval.

Bovender, in an October 2008 memo to TCRA Executive Director Patrick Wilson, said TCA breached airfield security regulations “on a number of occasions.”

In a letter sent to airport commissioners on Tuesday, TCA owner Don Carter said his organization was willing to invest up to $1 million in capital improvements if it had the right to stay on the airfield for 15 years.

TCA, Carter said in the letter, would rather continue with its operating lease rather than spending money to sue the airport.

The TCRA-TCA lease is important document because an estimated 70 of airport operations are related to general aviation.

But airport officials have maintained that since 2002, the number of general aviation operations has been on the decline.

Carter told commissioners last fall that airport officials essentially killed a Nashville company’s offer to buy his business for more than $7 million.

One of TCA’s lawyers, Wayne Culbertson of Kingsport, sent Wilson a letter insisting the operator is complying with the lease.

However, Bovender’s memo said the declining number of aircraft being stored at TCRA combined with complaints about TCA’s service and costs have damaged the airport’s reputation.

For more about TCA go to www.tricityaviation.com.

For more about TCRA go to www.triflight.com.

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