City officials allowed Air Evac Lifeteam to get out of its lease at the St. Clair Regional Airport almost a year and a half early, but made the air ambulance service pay its monthly rental fee through the end of the agreement period as a condition of the termination.
Air Evac representative Doug Woods appeared before the board of aldermen last week to discuss his company’s lease termination proposal, saying “We’d like to get out of it early.”
After some discussion, the aldermen said OK, but is making it pay its $300 monthly hangar rate fee through the term of the lease, which is July 2015.
Woods said the $5,100 check soon would be in the mail.
“We regret we had to move, but we had to make a decision,” Woods said in discussing Air Evac’s leaving St. Clair last year to relocate to Sullivan near the Missouri Baptist Hospital property. “We’re asking if the city would be so kind to let us out of our lease early.”
Company officials said Air Evac’s decision to relocate was made in part because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of St. Clair’s airport. Mayor Ron Blum, his administration and the aldermen have been trying to obtain permission from the Federal Aviation Administration for several years to close the facility located on the north side of town to make room for much-needed retail development.
Permission needs to be granted by the FAA because the city obtained and used grants as late as 2006 to make improvements at the facility.
St. Clair is waiting for a ruling from the FAA on a “Part 16” complaint by airport tenant Jim DeVries, who filed the paperwork in 2012. DeVries, who has been very vocal about his opposition to closure even though he lives in Pacific and not in St. Clair, has been fighting the city tooth-and-nail for years.
He is one of only four tenants who rent hangar space at the airport.
The FAA was supposed to rule on the complaint by March 3 after it extended its own deadline a sixth time, but no word was received by city officials, including whether another deadline is in the works.
As part of the Air Evac lease termination agreement, the city will get to keep the air ambulance hangars at the airport, but will have to maintain them.
A new hangar was constructed after the 2005 lease was signed, City Administrator Rick Childers said.
The company’s lease was extended for five years in 2005 and again in 2010. According to city records, Air Evac originally partnered with St. Clair in 2000.
The $5,100 is 17 months rent, or until the current lease was scheduled to end next July.
The discussion centered on whether the city would charge Air Evac the $300 per month rent for the duration of the current lease or allow it to back out without paying the monthly amount.
City Attorney Kurt Voss said the city should do the former.
“The real issue is what the termination fee should be,” Voss said, adding that under normal circumstances, a tenant usually pays the duration of the lease terms unless another tenant is found.
“It’s not unusual to say they have to pay it out.”
When the $5,100 was agreed upon, Voss said it was the best way to proceed.
“I don’t think any citizen should have a problem with this,” he said.
Under the release of liability section in the lease, “lessor and lessee shall each be completely released from their obligations to each other.”