The Woodward News

Local News

August 6, 2012

City confident it handled airport land properly

Woodward, Okla. — City officials are confident in the city's proper handling of property surrounding the West Woodward Airport.

"We are confident that the facts will show that the city has managed the airport and surrounding airport properties in the proper fashion and in a legal manner," City Attorney Aaron Sims said following an executive session of the Woodward City Commission on Monday evening.

The executive session was held to discuss legal issues regarding the city's response to an inspection report that was recently released to the city from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Essentially the FAA report claims that the city "inappropriately transferred title to airport land to the [Woodward] municipal authority," which has been receiving revenue from the lease and/or sale of those parcels, which total around 135 acres of land on the east side of the airport.  The report claims that the revenue from the lease and/or sale of those parcels should have instead gone to the West Woodward Airport to help cover operational costs there.

However, Sims said there are several problems with the report.

One is that "this report from the FAA was based upon largely upon a meeting with a group of concerned citizens and they had very little discussion with any city officials," he said.

Although at least one city official did meet with the FAA inspector for a time during his 2-day inspection of the West Woodward Airport on June 11-12, Sims told The News, "it was for a relatively short amount of time, just a couple of hours, as far as it relates to the whole inspection process."

But the bigger issue with the report, Sims said, is in what he believes to be an incorrect "assumption" on behalf of the FAA inspector.

"I believe the inspector made the assumption that the municipal authority is a separate entity with a separate interest," which it isn't, he said.

Rather the Woodward Municipal Authority is "a public trust, authorized by statute to hold properties on behalf of the city.  The municipal authority is part of the city and its beneficiary is the city," Sims said.

But despite the perceived flaws with the report, the city attorney said he is continuing to look into the matter.

He said city officials will have to "gather" and "review" all the relevant documents that pertain to claims made in the FAA report.  This will likely include the deed release documents, which are referenced in the FAA report, regarding the 135 acres on the east side of the airport that were released to the city in 1989 for the development of an industrial park.

It is in reviewing those documents that the city will start to draft a response to the FAA regarding the recent report, Sims said.

This response will likely include how the city plans to address certain "required corrective actions" that were outlined in the report as ways to fix the alleged non-compliance issues listed by the FAA inspector.

"As we assemble all the facts, we'll make those known, how those (corrective actions) will be addressed and what the city's plan will look like," Sims said.

The recommended corrective actions include everything from relocating a gun range and moving other equipment off airport property to paying lease rentals into the airport account to crediting the airport for salvaged materials from demolition projects at the airport.

While he didn't comment on how the city might address most of the FAA recommendations, Sims did address one of the bigger items in which the report states that "Title to released airport property should be returned to the airport from other city departments or entities."

The attorney said such action would be impossible.

"There's no legal entity that is the airport; it's the city.  It's a legal impossibility to transfer property to the airport," Sims said.

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