Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Hernando commission okays lease of abandoned facility at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport

BROOKSVILLE — A unanimous Hernando County Commission on Friday approved, with conditions, leasing the old Brooksville Air Center site at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport to a Clearwater-based airplane maintenance company.

The commission gave Corporate Jet Solutions until July 5 to finalize a lease by providing to the county several pieces of financial information about the company, its assets and a complete credit report on owner Tony Dye.

Also during that period, the county agreed to provide detailed information about the air center site to Dye — information he has been seeking during his negotiations with the county.

The commission's vote dropped several performance conditions for the company, including requirements related to a flight school and the number of planes it would bring to the airport.

The lease deal has been controversial from the beginning because Dye plans to be a fixed-base operator and sell fuel. Currently, the airport has only one fixed-base operator, American Aviation, and it has a monopoly on fuel sales. Criticisms of Corporate Jet Solutions, American Aviation and even the Hernando County Aviation Authority have been flying throughout the discussion.

The debate about whether American Aviation officials were using their decades-long ties in the community to quash competition continued during public comments Friday.

Even before the commission meeting, there was another unexpected development. While American Aviation initially had sought to compete with Corporate Jet Solutions for the lease to operate a flight school out of the air center building, it withdrew several days ago.

Then, just before Friday's meeting, American Aviation submitted another packet for consideration. And company president John Petrick prepared a complaint to be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, alleging that the county was using "unjustly discriminatory practices'' in the lease amount determined for Corporate Jet Solutions.

Petrick offered an alternative bid for the Brooksville Air Center facilities. He would buy the facilities for $1.3 million, then pay $33,600 annually to lease the land they're on once the title for the facilities is cleared from a lien.

But deputy county attorney Jon Jouben said the commission could not consider the offer because it had not been received by airport manager Don Silvernell by the time the meeting had started, as required by county code.

Dye and his father, Bradley Dye, outlined for commissioners their vision for when they move their Clearwater operation to Hernando County. They currently maintain mid- to large-size corporate jets, larger than most of the aircraft now at the airport south of Brooksville.

They plan a flight school, expanded maintenance operations, a separate hangar for painting airplanes and customer services such as rental cars and hotel deals. They also spoke about getting involved in the community, talking to students about aviation and meeting with other airport tenants.

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