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."
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
Coton de tulear joins Westminster; Paypal splitting from Ebay; first US Ebola diagnosis and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 1, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
There was a time when United Ballot had a political stranglehold so tight on Lafayette’s black community it was nearly unbreakable, but that grip might be loosening.
The race for Lafayette city marshal may not be the most exciting of this year’s local political contests, but it could prove the most historic.
With the DA’s race too close to call and negative media coverage of Mike Harson on the ebb, will challenger Keith Stutes take the gloves off?
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.
The endorsements keep coming for District 9 LPSB candidate Jeremy Hidalgo, who picked up his fifth vow of support Thursday, this time from the Chamber’s political action committee.
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter will be out knocking on doors this weekend with anti-abortion activists encouraging people to vote against his colleague, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The ACLU of Louisiana has sued Abbeville's mayor and police chief over a policy barring police from any social media use showing the city in a bad light.