Local officials have received a copy of another complaint filed by St. Clair Regional Airport tenant Jim DeVries of Pacific against the city.
This specific complaint, which he refers to as a “14 C.F.R. a Part 16,” was sent to Federal Aviation Administration personnel in May. A copy of it was received by the city at the end of last month.
“We’ve received a copy of the filing, but have not received any communication regarding it from the FAA,” City Administrator Rick Childers told The Missourian earlier this month. “We presume some sort of response will be requested, and we presume we will be able to comply with that request. But until a request is made we have no basis for any action.”
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.”
According to the complaint, it specifically alleges two things.
“First (is) the existing tenants that have tried to negotiate a lease for 2013,” the document reads. “The city made changes in our lease for 2012 and inserted in Article III a sentence that stated the lease was not renewable.
“The tenants believe that the city will attempt to force us to move at the end of 2012.”
The second part of the complaint refers to an individual request for hangar rental space made by Rosemary Ficken, the wife “of previous tenant Jerome Ficken,” the document read, adding that Rosemary Ficken called Childers and discussed the issue with him.
According to the complaint, the Fickenses were denied rental space. DeVries wrote that Rosemary Ficken stated Childers said the reason was because “it was not logical because the airport is going to be closed.”
Childers told The Missourian that the conversation did take place and that he did state words similar to what Rosemary Ficken indicated. However, the city administrator also said a formal request never was received in writing.
“It was only an informal conversation over the phone,” Childers said.
Mayor Ron Blum said, however, if a formal request was made for hangar space, the city would consider it.
The complaint is signed by DeVries. Other parties listed are Tim Dempsey of Pacific, Dave Hardin of Crestwood, Grady Bowers of Crestwood, Chris Kempen of Pacific, Gilbert Hoffman of rural St. Clair, Grenville Sutcliffe of Pacific, George Brock of Union and the Fickens of Cedar Hill.
Local officials are trying to close the airport on the north side of the city to make way for proposed retail development on the 80-acre site. Blum has met with FAA officials regarding the closure request and currently is working on a plan with those officials.
DeVries, who has filed other complaints with the FAA against the city, has been the most vocal opponent to the city’s attempts to close the facility.
The St. Clair airport blog, which officials have said has no connection to the city or its employees, was created earlier this year. On May 22, it made reference to the latest complaint sent to the FAA.
“On May 21 the tenants sent a Part 16 complaint to the FAA concerning the desire of the city of St. Clair to not wanting to enter into negotiations for hangar leases for 2013, or to let the tenants build their own hangars,” the blog reads. “Federal law stipulates that the city is required to negotiate in good faith for a lease to someone who wants to build hangars, and offer hangar space to the public. The complaint spells out five separate grant assurances that the city is in violation of.
“The tenants believe that the city is not going to offer hangar space for 2013, which is in violation of the federal grant that the airport received in 2006 and 1983. The complaint also asks that the FAA put on hold the closure issue that is being pursued by the city until the complaint issue is settled.
“By not negotiating a new lease, the city is attempting to deny access to aeronautical activities at the airport.”
Local officials must get FAA approval to close the facility because the city received federal grants as late as 2006 to maintain and improve the airport.
There are 12 numbered paragraphs in the complaint.
“Complainants pray that the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration conduct an investigation of the subject matter of this complaint; issue an order that the city cease and desist from imposing the unreasonable prohibitions and restrictions listed above and otherwise violating the grant assurances; defer any review of city documents and decision making in response to any city request to close the airport until this complaint is fully resolved; and issue any other appropriate compliance order to carry out the provision of the applicable law,” the concluding paragraph reads.