by LISA MACNEIL
Hernando Sun Correspondent
This article corresponds to the following Dec. 18, 2019 BOCC meeting agenda item:
2. Award of Contract No. 18-CG0117/BH to GLF Construction Corporation for Aircraft Self Fueling Facility Project at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Associated Budget Resolution (Cost: $1,255,770.00)
In July 2017, the county commission approved the funding for the design of a self service fueling station at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport. For facility design, $19,000 was approved with $15,202 coming from an FDOT grant. Hernando County’s match was $3,800. Both Allocco and Holcomb voted against funding the design.
American Aviation, a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at the airport, provides hangar, maintenance, repair, upgrade and fueling services ( but does not provide self service fueling for after hours use). They have been serving the airport for 37 years.
On Dec. 18, 2018, the board voted 3-2 against approval of this contract for the construction of the self fueling station. BOCC Chairman Steve Champion and Commissioner Wayne Dukes were the members in favor.
Wunderle explained that the associated Budget Resolution to fund construction is in the form of a $500,000 Letter of Credit.
Commissioner John Mitten began the discussion by noticing that the original estimate was $843,000, which Wunderle explained was the starting estimate, before upgrades were added into the final cost.
Airport Manager Kevin Daugherty explained that various funding through grants is expected, as well as county’s portion, and he does not expect to use any lines of credit.
Commissioner John Allocco said,“With the $697,000 FDOT grant, the county’s requesting another $300,000. So after our $1-million investment in grants, the estimated profit margin is 0.09, less than 1% profit margin ... This is just outrageous. If everything works out well, we break even after a $1-million investment.” Allocco added, “We cut the price of AB Gas, which in turn will just make the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) that’s there now drop his, and then maybe we don’t even break even.”
“This is the government stepping in and subsidizing hobby airplanes,” Allocco said, noting that the fuel station is intended for non-commercial pilots and planes.
Champion disagreed, saying, “This isn’t about profit, this is about bringing people to the airport ... economic development, right?”
Allocco answered, “No, it was about competing with an FBO that’s there. We had another FBO and nobody wanted to invest there.”
Daugherty said that he was surprised to find that the airport did not have a self-fueling option when he came onboard in 2013. “It was very clear to me why a private business did not put it in, because of cost. So, we’re trying to move this forward and give our pilots the opportunity for self-fueling.” Daugherty added, “It certainly wouldn’t break our hearts (if a private entity wanted to run it) to put it out to bid.”
Mitten stated his position has not changed from last year’s. “It’s the taxpayers subsidizing a lower cost at the expense of the private business person. I don’t know if that’s public service in the best interest of commerce.”
Champion interjected at this point, and said, “The FBO is subsidized by the government. He doesn’t pay taxes.”
Mitten continued, “You wouldn’t want a business in the same industry that you’re in stuck beside you, and having a subsidized price.” Since approval of the resolution involves a line of credit, Mitten said, “To borrow money to subsidize it- is compounding it.”
Dukes reported, “Before the last FBO came in (that failed), I had numerous people who owned small airplanes tell me ‘We never buy gas in Hernando County. Even if we have to land before we get here, we don’t buy gas in the county.’
Champion said, “I don’t know if the public knows that the FBOs are subsidized by the state. They get all kinds of benefits, so it’s not like a private business like (Allocco) and I have. There are no subsidies for me at all … But the FBO pays zero property taxes, zero millage … he pays like $2,800 total per year. We got all the engineering done, we got the grants, and all we’ve got to do is approve it to get it done, and put us with other airports with self-fueling.”