BROOKSVILLE — Local pilots who use avgas for their small piston aircraft soon will get what they asked for, a cheaper option for filling their tanks at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
And Hernando County commissioners, who have debated the pros and cons of an advisory council to help them make decisions about the airport, soon will get that help, as well.
Last month, commissioners reversed course and voted to build an avgas self-fueling station at the airport using approximately $1 million in grant money. Earlier, they were prepared to reject the project, but that would have required them to pay back $89,000 spent to help design the facility.
The commission voted Tuesday to accept a bid of $1.255 million from GLF Construction Corporation of Miami to build the 12,000-gallon, self-fueling station.
Several local pilots told commissioners they wanted the option of cheaper, self-service fuel for their airplanes. Karl Bombas said he took exception when commissioners said the self-fueling station would help only those with hobby aircraft. He uses his airplane for transportation like others use their cars, he said.
But when it came to fueling up, he found it "more economical to do so outside of Hernando County,'' because the full-service avgas available from American Aviation is more expensive.
"Keep this profitable business within Hernando County,'' he said.
Commissioners had hesitated in part because of the low profit margin, but pilot Will Nelson said that shouldn't be the only consideration.
"Serve our citizens by taking care of our citizens,'' he said.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes said he has heard for years that pilots would rather buy elsewhere. He called the self-fueling station "another addition at our airport that makes our airport more inviting.''
Commissioner Steve Champion said he favors having the county find a private provider to run the service once it is built.
The new station will compete with American Aviation, the airport's fixed-base operator, but Champion has argued that the business "got a sweetheart deal on its land leases'' and pays the airport only half of what it should per gallon of fuel sold.
"There's money to be made'' in the self-service fuel business, Champion said.
On Tuesday, commissioners also established an airport advisory committee. The commission disbanded the Aviation Authority in 2014, which advised the commission on airport issues, after it generated much controversy.
The new committee is structured like the county's Planning and Zoning Commission. It has advisory responsibilities, but no control at the airport.
Each commissioner chose a member, and the county administration chose two members.
Members chosen were: Timothy Beard, president of Pasco-Hernando State College, by Commissioner John Mitten; Frank Morsani, a businessman and philanthropist, by Commissioner John Allocco; Joel Fritton, attorney for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, by Commission Chairman Jeff Holcomb; Paul Douglas, president of the local NAACP, by Dukes; and Tyler Stapleton, president of Suncoast-Capital City Bank, by Champion. Acting county administrator Jeff Rogers selected a former airport planner from Michigan, Zoe Lorca, and a previous owner and manager of businesses at the Lorain County Regional Airport in Ohio, Ray Fuqua.
The committee will meet at least six times a year in the county commission chambers, and those meetings will be open to the public. The first meeting is slated for March 19.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.