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New agreement signed on airpark

County commissioners signed a lease agreement Thursday with Tri-State Aviation Technologies to operate the Lawrence County Airpark.

Friday, October 22, 1999

County commissioners signed a lease agreement Thursday with Tri-State Aviation Technologies to operate the Lawrence County Airpark.

The non-profit corporation, established recently by Jay and Mandy Conley, will oversee the airport and its future plans to offer aviation classes.

"We saw the educational opportunity there before, and by it being a private, non-profit, there will probably be some more money available," commissioner George Patterson said. "We’ve got a much better situation than we’ve ever had."

The five-year county lease gives Tri-State Aviation Technologies three renewal options every five years and requires a three-month notice if the lease will not be renewed.

Lawrence County will receive no rent from the airpark during the first year of the lease. Thereafter, 1 percent of gross revenues from fuel sales, hangar and tie-down rentals and other activities will be returned to the county, the lease states.

The lease also requires frequent financial reports, daily airport supervision and that adequate insurance be maintained by Tri-State Aviation Technologies.

The lease protects the county, allows the airport to grow and provides opportunities to educate students interested in aviation careers, commission president Bruce Trent said.

"This new entity offers stability," Trent said. "It’s what I think we were looking for."

Commissioners began seeking a new operator about a year ago, trying first the Lawrence County Educational Service Center as its lease partner.

Officials there formed a cooperative with area universities, technical schools and high schools to offer aircraft maintenance and pilot programs. But, the school system pulled out this summer when state auditors and education heads determined school systems could not spend money on airports, commissioners said.

But Conley, the school board, commissioners and other groups that had written class plans did not want to abandon the aviation center concept, and formed the non-profit corporation, Conley said.

That status will allow the aiport to retain school officials on its board of directors and to seek donations or grants for operation, Conley said.

Financial reports show the airport has been profitable the last couple of months, Trent said.

With nine new hangars planned, and the schools still on board with the project, it should be successful, he said.

And the county will consider waiving the 1 percent revenue share in the future to promote the airport’s educational opportunties, Trent said.