The Woodward News

Local News

August 8, 2012

Reactions differ to recent airport land inspection report

Woodward, Okla. — There are a lot of emotions swirling around the recent release of an FAA inspection report that was critical of the city's handling of property at the West Woodward Airport.

And while some officials have tried to remain diplomatic, others were outspoken about their displeasure over the situation.

When asked for his thoughts on the FAA report following Monday's city commission meeting, Mayor Roscoe Hill said, "I'm a little upset.  No, I'm a lot upset because there's no reason for what's going on."

Hill and his fellow commissioners received legal advice on how the city plans to respond to the FAA report during an executive session Monday night.

The mayor told The News that he believes there are "no improprieties" in how the city has handled the airport and surrounding land.

"Everything that was done out there has an explanation and it will all work out in the end," he said.

However, he is concerned at how much time and money it will take to work everything out.

"It's a shame as a city that we have to spend money and effort to prove something that in the end will show that we did nothing wrong," Hill said, adding, "I suspect it will cost several thousand dollars in attorney fees to deal with this."

James Cline, chair of the Woodward Airport Authority, also feels that the city might be wasting money, but in a different way.

"I'm anxious to see what the city is going to do or if they're just going to spend a lot of money trying not to do what they're supposed to do," Cline said.

Cline told The News on Tuesday that he felt the FAA inspector "did a good job."

His view on the actions of Woodward's city administration is less positive.

"Personally I'm not satisfied with the way Woodward is running things," Cline said, noting that he believes the city administration has been "heavy-handed" at times with airport issues.

But he is hopeful that the FAA inspection report and its list of "corrective actions" to address alleged non-compliance issues will change things.

"I just hope Woodward (administration) does what it is supposed to do now, because they've signed grants and agreements and I don't think they're keeping them," Cline said.

The FAA inspection report also accuses the city of failing to keep certain agreements with the FAA, and in particular, a supplemental agreement to the 1989 deed release for approximately 135 acres on the east side of the airport.  According to the report, as part of this 1989 agreement, the released airport land could be sold or leased for non-aeronautical uses as long as proceeds from the sale and/or lease was paid at fair market value, with the revenue to be used for airport capital or operating costs.

The FAA report claims the agreement was broken when the city "inappropriately transferred" title to the property to the Woodward Municipal Authority (WMA) for "a nominal sum," with the WMA in turn selling or leasing the parcels.  "In each case proceeds from the sale or lease has gone to WMA instead of the airport," the report states.

To correct this problem, the FAA report outlines that the city should return the property titles to the airport, and that rental for leases of the airport properties should be paid to the airport account.

City Attorney Aaron Sims said the city is still in the process of "reviewing all these findings" and determining how to best address and respond to the FAA report and its list of "required corrective actions."

"We'll see what the facts are and what those show as to whether or not all their recommendations need to be addressed or not," Sims told The News.

But there is at least one action which the city likely won't be taking, because the attorney said it is impossible.

"It's a legal impossibility to transfer property to the airport," Sims said, because "there's no legal entity that is the airport" to which property titles can be transferred to.

"The airport, the Woodward Municipal Authority, and the city are all one entity," he said.

When Airport Manager Rory Hicks was asked for comment, he said that FAA rules have to be followed.

"Being the airport manager, I have got to comply with FAA rules and regulations and I will do that to the best of my ability," Hicks said.

However, he remains optimistic that this will all result in a positive outcome for the West Woodward Airport.

"I believe in the positive progress of the airport and hope we continue in that direction," he said.

And despite the recent FAA report and any negativity it may contain, Hicks said, "the airport's doing the best that it's ever done."

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