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."
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.