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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ray Sansom's college changed hangar plans after newspaper interest, files show



Only after the Times/Herald started asking questions about a project at Destin Airport did Northwest Florida State College officials begin planning to use the 15,000-square-foot hangar portion of the building for emergency management purposes, according to newly released investigative files.

Brian_shonk Brian Shonk, the college's director of public safety, told a state attorney investigator that he was instructed not to incorporate the "staging area" into educational plans for the $6 million facility, funded through Rep. Ray Sansom. But "real near" the time the newspaper started asking questions, Shonk said college president Bob Richburg asked him how the space could be used.

"At that time, I began planning for using it for public safety training," Shonk said, adding that's when he came up with an idea to put mock apartments in the space for emergency response drills. He said he was surprised when the college issued a statement asserting that there was no plans for aircraft storage.

Shonk knew otherwise.

He said that the architect, Jim Dowling, explained early on that the hangar doors were needed to fit a large plane.

"I don't know if he mentioned Mr. Jay Odom, Destin Jet or just a tenant or a company, but he said the largest plane that entity had was a Lear King Jet ... and the door needed to be large enough to accommodate that plane."

At one point, Jay Odom owned a King Air, but it's unclear what Dowling meant. Odom's corporate jet business presumably would have handled aircraft owned by other people.

Shonk said he understood all along that Odom planned to use the building and that one of Odom's employees attended a planning meeting in early 2008.

Dowling is the author of a December 2008 e-mail that said he had confirmed from the "user" of the staging area that multiple aircraft would be stored in the building.

That e-mail was sent three days after Sansom first denied to the Times/Herald that Odom planned to use the building.

Listen to Shonk's interview with investigator Jim Anderson here.


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 3:55pm]


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