While the airport does not have any immediate plans for expansion, the Lebanon City Council agreed unanimously to purchase an abutting parcel of land on Tuckers Gap Road Tuesday at City Hall.
Lebanon Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines said Thursday during an Airport Commission meeting that it was really a matter of striking while the iron was hot and acquiring the land from a motivated seller. The city had its eye on the property at 506 Tuckers Gap Road after Direct Flight Solutions Chief Operating Officer Heather Bay noticed it was for sale last month.
The city moved quickly and negotiated a deal for the land to be bought for $318,000, which will come out of the general fund.
According to Baines, the property has a dwelling that will be rented until the city decides how to utilize the property for the airport. The property sits to the northwest side of the runway.
Baines said that the property appraised for $305,000 but that given market trends, the city didn’t feel paying an extra $13,000 was excessive. The final deal was also negotiated down according to Baines, as the sellers were asking for $330,000.
During the commission meeting, Baines said the city hopes to officially close on the property in the next two weeks.
Commission revises recommendations for hangar rate increases
Last month, the commission sent a recommendation to the city council to increase the rates for hangars in the Row A and B sections of the airport. The recommendation would increase rental rates by 10% over each of the next two years.
The council decided that increase was not sufficient and struck it down. During the meeting Thursday, the commission discussed what a 25% increase would look like, if implemented with a subsequent 15% increase the following year.
These increases are intended to get Lebanon’s airport rates in line with comparable market values in the surrounding areas. Lebanon Airport Commission Chairman Ralph Mallicoat said that these numbers were “just an example,” before adding that “most of the other airports around us that are similar size are going up.”
Bay said during the meeting that a 15% increase each year would be just enough to keep up with maintenance costs and inflation.
Commissioner T.O. Cragwall said that he had heard an inference was made by city officials suggesting that anyone who could afford a plane, could afford these increases, something to which he took offense. To explain his position, he cited an old saying, “If you teach your kid to fly, you’ll never have to worry about them having enough money to buy drugs.”
All humor aside, the commission was determined to reach a compromise that wouldn’t alienate long-standing relationships with lease-holders.
To that point, Mallicoat said they didn’t want to go up too much. “How would you like to be renting, and then be up for renewal and your landlord come to you and say rent is now doubled?”
The chairman said, “We need to do this in a way that is good for everybody.”
Commissioner Paul Stumb suggested a 15% increase each year that seemed to go over better with other members although it wasn’t unanimously agreed upon. Baines, City Councilor Joey Carmack and Commissioner Deborah Baugh all voted against it.
Baines said that the 15% simply wasn’t high enough for him to recommend, especially after the city council just footed the entire bill for the parcel purchase near the airport.
The three dissenting votes were overruled by the majority so the 15% increase recommendation will go back before the council later this month.