ST. PETERSBURG — Improvements at Albert Whitted Airport bumped up its curb appeal, but not the bottom line of the company hired to run the complex.
Bay Air Flying Service, the city's contractor, fell chronically behind on monthly rent despite the city's adding a new terminal, restaurant and, this week, a new traffic control tower.
While the company ultimately made good on its rent, Mayor Bill Foster asked the City Council on Thursday to waive $60,000 in interest and fees due to late payments.
The company generally pays $12,800 in monthly rent. If it's late, the charge is 5 percent plus 1.5 percent interest monthly.
Instead of paying the penalty, the company would pay $12,500 to improve plumbing and other problems as part of an amended lease that also eases management demands on the company. Foster and city staff said waiving the penalty is partly justified because the city's billing system had problems.
While penalties began after payments were 15 days late, billing statements said they started after 45 days. Though late payments occurred for years, they said the airport's finances are solid, and the company faced a bad economy. The deal increased revenue to the city by $200,000.
Delays in the airport projects such as the new $4 million terminal hampered revenue, too.
"The new lease was a challenge from the beginning," company owner Ron Methot said, noting he can't afford health insurance for workers.
A council committee voted 4-0 Thursday to allow Foster to continue negotiating the agreement. But council members Jim Kennedy and Herb Polson said waiving penalties bothered them.
"We went with you in high hopes and expectations, and you knew we were building a terminal," Polson said.
Foster is expected to bring a proposed agreement for the full council to review this fall. The company has more than a year left on a five-year lease, and Foster said the city will request lease proposals for when it concludes.
David DeCamp can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/decamptimes