But Fournet's complaint may have merit. Roland Herwig, a spokesman for the FAA, says the "informal complaint" is under review, and the airport commission seems to be making an about-face on the FBO issue. Airport commission Chairman Jim Nunn, who hasn't seen the complaint but acknowledges verbal communication with the FAA, now tells The Independent Weekly that the airport commission will negotiate with anyone wanting to construct an FBO at the airport. "If any party wants to come in and propose a second FBO lease, we will certainly talk with them," Nunn says. He says the airport has available land for development of such facilities, which serve private and corporate aviation interests with a terminal, hangars and other services.
"I'm really taken back by that," says Steve Gardes, Fournet's CPA. "What he is now saying is totally foreign to the public and totally foreign to me. That's not what they told Herbie Schilling." Two months ago, the airport commission refused to entertain an offer from a local group involving Schilling, saying he had come to the table too late ("Turbulence on the Ground," June 7). Technically, at its June 1 meeting the commission refused to reopen the RFP process, as Schilling had requested, but it never indicated that it otherwise would be willing to talk.
The commission decided in late 2004 to enter into exclusive negotiations with a single FBO and in early 2005 voted to hold those negotiations with Million Air, which has been clear that it will only come to Lafayette if it's the sole operator. The airport commission is now in the final stages of a lease agreement with the Cincinnati-based company, which in part calls for it to take over Lafayette Aero, an existing FBO that requested early release from its contract with the airport. Nunn says the Million Air contract is non-exclusive.
The FAA's Herwig says airports that receive federal funding, like Lafayette Regional, cannot have exclusive contracts ' nor can they enter into exclusive negotiations. Herwig was unable to determine before press time whether the airport commission's RFP process legally allows for the kind of negotiations it undertook with Million Air.
The airport commission's study of the profitability of the two existing FBOs led it to conclude that the airport can only support one such facility. Fournet has made the same argument for years. In June, Lafayette Aero's early lease termination cleared the way for Million Air's project.
In its original proposal, Million Air offered to construct a $6 million FBO, and the local group, led by prominent businessmen Wayne Elmore, Mike Poole and Rodney Savoy, proposed a $2 million facility. Gardes claims the local group was at a disadvantage because it was unaware the airport would accept a flat fuel flowage fee, rather than a percentage of the escalating current prices, which would have led the local businessmen to offer a bigger capital improvement project. "We were under the impression that the fuel flowage fee structure was a sacred cow," he says. The new Million Air contract calls for it to pay the airport a flat fee per gallon, which could amount to several million dollars less than the local group over the 30-year lease period.
Fournet claims the commission favored Million Air from the beginning over his group. The airport commission did accept a new, detailed proposal from Million Air two days after the March 30, 2005, deadline. Somewhere in the ensuing lengthy negotiation process the $6 million capital improvement was lowered, and shockingly, the current lease has no stipulation for how much money Million Air will invest in the facility. Nunn, who confirms the lease still needs a couple of signatures to be finalized, says the commission has concentrated on the size of the facility and services offered.
For months Fournet and other local businessmen have pleaded with the commission to reopen what they call a "tainted" process, but the commission stuck with its decision to negotiate exclusively with Million Air. On June 29, Fournet submitted a proposal for a $6 million facility, to be constructed by Paul Fournet Air Service and/or Lafayette FBO Investor Group. (He says he would be willing to step aside for the local group "in light of [the commission's] apparent disdain for PFAS.") The airport commission again refused to even consider the offer. Says Nunn, "We did not view that letter as a viable offer, considering that Richard still owes the airport over $600,000."
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 23, 2014:
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”