As city officials remain hopeful for the eventual closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport, its board of aldermen unanimously supported retaining the services of a consultant who has provided assistance in the quest.
During last week’s meeting, board members passed an ordinance authorizing Mayor Ron Blum to enter into an agreement with QED Airport & Aviation Consultants for the 2013 calendar year.
“Mayor Ron Blum is hereby authorized to enter into a professional services agreement with QED for the provision of services to obtain a release of obligations for the St. Clair Regional Airport from the Federal Aviation Administration,” part of Ordinance 1686 reads.
Ron Price of Florida-based QED first was retained by the city toward the end of 2010. The agreement stated and still states that he only will be paid upon the successful closure of the airport, which requires FAA approval because the city obtained and used grants for improvements as last as 2006.
His fee is $150,000, “contingent upon obtaining a written release from our federal obligations from the FAA,” the ordinance reads.
In September 2010. then-City Administrator Jim Arndt shared a letter with the aldermen outlining the basics of his proposal on how Price would work with the city as it seeks the release of obligations for the local airport.
“He is confident he will be able to assist us with the closure of the airport,” Arndt said during a board of aldermen meeting at the time. “He is a proponent for the city. The administration recommends the mayor enter into this agreement.”
Current City Administrator Rick Childers said the new ordinance continues the pact.
“It simply continues the contract on an annual basis,” he said. “This is the same agreement the board agreed to more than two years ago.”
When Price first proposed the partnership, he sent a letter to the city.
“I believe that I may be of assistance in obtaining a complete and lawful release of all obligations for the St. Clair Regional Airport from the Federal Aviation Administration and the State of Missouri Department of Transportation and all other governmental authorities that have jurisdiction over the airport,” he wrote in September 2010. “The Federal Aviation Administration will be a formidable adverse force in this matter, especially since the airport has received grant funds in recent years. Notwithstanding these factors, I am proposing to be of assistance on a contingency basis.”
At the time, Price outlined his proposal. It included preparing a strategic plan to initiate the request to the FAA to release the local airport from its obligations. It also includes his $150,000 fee request.
Early in 2011, the city sent Price’s nearly 200-page closure document to federal and state officials, federal and state politicians and other personnel. It since has been followed by more documentation, meetings and other related items as the city continues to pursue closure.
City officials have said the local airport loses money every year. Financial records support that.
The city’s comprehensive plan calls for the airport’s closure as part of a long-term development vision.
The city has been attempting to close the 80-acre facility on the north side of town for several years so the land can be used for retail development.