The Federal Aviation Administration recently granted itself a seventh extension to make a decision regarding a complaint filed against the city relating to the St. Clair Regional Airport.
City officials received the notification late last week after the FAA’s sixth deadline came and went with no word on March 3.
The latest extension, ordered by Randall S. Fiertz, FAA director of airport compliance and management analysis, is worded exactly the same as the sixth extension, which was granted in early February to March 3. The latest extension is to April 3.
“This matter is before the FAA based on the above-referenced complaint, filed in accordance with FAA rules of practice for federally assisted airport enforcement proceedings,” the notice reads. “An extension of time is necessary and appropriate for a fair and complete determination in this case.”
The Part 16 complaint was filed by airport tenant Jim DeVries of Pacific, who for years has been battling and criticizing the city as it seeks to close the 80-acre facility located on the north side of town. DeVries is one of only four tenants who rent hangar space at the airport. None of those tenants live in St. Clair.
City officials remain frustrated with the FAA and its constant delay in making a decision on the complaint.
In fact, when asked about this latest and seventh extension, City Administrator Rick Childers told The Missourian that “I don’t think you’d be able to run any comments I might provide. You may quote me on that.”
The city wants to close the facility and use the land for much-needed retail development along the Interstate 44 corridor. Permission to close must be granted by the FAA because the city used federal funds, as late as 2006, to make improvements to the airport.
DeVries filed his complaint in the spring of 2012.
The complaint, officially titled a “14 C.F.R. Part 16,” was sent to Federal Aviation Administration personnel in May of that year. The complaint alleges “noncompliance by the city of St. Clair Regional Airport, the sponsor of the airport, of its obligations under federal law applicable to the operation of an airport.”
Closing the airport has been a priority of Ron Blum and his administration since he took office in 2007. According to the FAA, it won’t consider closing the airport until the Part 16 complaint is resolved.
The city and the FAA have sent correspondence back and forth regarding the airport for years. Each time a corrective measure has been requested, the city has said it has addressed and fixed the situation.
Last year, the Missouri Department of Transportation said it will not oppose closure of the airport.