I am writing to express my concern over overt actions of Washington State’s Spokane International Airport Board and staff in negotiations with Spokane Airways regarding lease terms. In describing these actions, vendetta is perhaps too strong a word, but that is what comes to mind after perceiving (for better than a year) that the airport board and staff are not negotiating in good faith, I feel compelled to step into the fray.
Let it be known that my ox is not being gored and that I am speaking as a concerned citizen (who has recently moved to Metaline Falls) regarding what I see as the board’s persistent efforts to remove Spokane Airways from the general aviation side of the airport. Spokane Airways has been in business at this airport for better than 40 years, and under the same ownership for approximately 20 years. To the best of my knowledge, they have never missed a rental payment on any of the buildings they rent from the airport; they have maintained those same buildings and surrounding areas as required by their rental agreements. In total, they employ more than 100 individuals.
I do have a business agreement with Spokane Airways: I lease my Cessna 152 to them for use in flight instruction. Due to my recent move to Metaline Falls, I will be terminating that agreement in the near future, but the plane is currently based at Spokane Airways. This agreement has been in effect for over a year, and I can tell the world that dealing with Spokane Airways has been one of the most pleasant and trusting business experiences of my life.
Long story short: Within the past year and a half, another FBO has begun operations at Spokane International Airport. Well and good. However, it appears that due to the airport board — on behalf of this FBO — obtaining a grant of better than $200,000 and a low interest loan of approximately $800,000, this FBO is paying approximately half out of pocket of what Spokane Airways is paying in the way of square footage rental fees for their facilities. No amount of negotiating by Spokane Airways has moved the airport board to alter what is charged to Spokane Airways for space rental. Neither I nor Spokane Airways are in any way trying to put the other FBO in a bad light. What Spokane Airways has consistently been requesting — and what I am now requesting — is that they be awarded rental concessions to bring their costs in line with those charged their competitor. After all: fair is fair.
It has been brought to my attention that the airport board has also obtained a similar grant and loan for two other firms on the general aviation side of the airport, effectively reducing their out of pocket rental costs substantially. Still, the airport board refuses to make any changes in the fees charged Spokane Airways. The appearance is one of outright favoritism by the airport board in dealing with general aviation tenants.
Spokane International Airport is owned jointly by the City of Spokane and Spokane County. The airport receives a lot of federal funds from the FAA due to and for the benefit of general aviation activities. Since the airport is publicly owned and receives and uses federal funds, the airport board is required to charge the same fees to businesses engaged in the same activity at the airport. Public policy requires it; federal regulations require it. I am asking the FAA to look into this situation. If the FAA agrees with me that the equal opportunity provisions of the Federal Regulations are not being met, I am hereby asking that FAA funding be withheld from Spokane International Airport until such time that compliance occurs.
Chapter Two: A new, $20 million federally funded control tower has been constructed at Spokane International Airport. It has been known from the beginning that the buildings rented by Spokane Airways must be removed to provide adequate vision of the airport from the tower cab. The understanding was that new facilities would be made available to Spokane Airways when the time came to vacate the present structures. Now comes the airport board with not one, but two (conflicting) eviction notices for Spokane Airways and their tenants. As of this writing, no facilities have been provided by the airport board to replace the buildings being removed. It needs to be noted that Spokane Airways has five years left on their current lease and the replacement site under discussion with the airport board has been leased to the second FBO.
From my perspective, this is blatant heavy-handed unequal treatment by the airport board of two competing tenants.
In my opinion, a number of things have allowed this to happen: 1) the airport board and its staff have not conducted their business in a transparent manner; 2) The Spokane City Council and the Spokane County Commissioners (to whom the airport board is responsible) have not exercised their oversight responsibilities; 3) the FAA is unaware of this situation.
Why is it that the airport board is doing their best to force a company with a 40-year history — and a payroll of over 100 people — to just “fold their tent and go away”? Can we as a community afford this? What about their public commitment to bring business development to the airport? Shame on them!
DAVID G. LAW
Metaline Falls, Wash