TAMPA — The Hillsborough Aviation Authority board voted 3-1 to continue with the controversial demolition of a $4 million building owned by Tampa International Airport.
The one dissenting vote was by member Steve Burton, who questioned whether airport executive director Louis Miller and his boss, Hillsborough Aviation Authority chairman Al Austin, had a conflict of interest.
Austin owns 400,000 square feet of office space in the adjacent West Shore area, of which about 80,000 square feet is now vacant. The building to be demolished has about 40,000 square feet.
Miller said only decisions to buy and sell property are reviewed by the board. Airport policy allows him to decide how to maintain, or even destroy, airport property, he said.
Board members Austin, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and physician Joseph Diaco voted to go ahead with the $79,000 demolition, partly swayed by Miller's comments that the contractor had already been hired and there could be legal complications if the job is canceled.
But they also agreed, on Iorio's advice, to make sure that in the future, Miller should ask for board approval before demolishing any building on airport property.
After the meeting, Iorio explained that taking such a step should avoid questions of impropriety.
The board also discussed the possibility of increasing the number of international flights handled by the airport. A consultant gave a presentation, and the board approved an initiative to survey different businesses throughout the Tampa Bay area to gauge interest in international travel.
The survey will also try to find out whether businesses have interest in helping subsidize the cost of bringing in more international flights. Most board members agreed that likely wouldn't happen, however.
"It would be a surprise if we could get businesses to contribute, in this environment," Iorio said.