"As Wauchula Turns"

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RICK MARTIN

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Eventually when Jim, our airport manager, does have to vacate the airport (he's fighting eviction now) the city manager will more than likely come after us.

Knowing this, we have started talks with the city of Arcadia (20 miles south of Wauchula). The Arcadia city council has long sought Jim's advice on how to improve their airport and make it more like Wauchula. But because of their current lease with their dysfunctional FBO, their hands have been tied. That lease ends on March 31, 2014.

We met with one of their leading airport board members yesterday to get a feel for things. I don't want to say too much right now. But it looks like we have already found a new home with the right kind of support. We'll know more by the middle of January.

And maybe if we hadn't spoken up so firmly in support of Jim's "elimination" we might not have incurred the wrath of the Wauchula city manager. But when you see wrong doing on this scale, I think you just have to snuff it out regardless of the personal consequences. Irregardless of where we end up, we fully intend to make the sky fall on these foul people. It just has to happen.

I know many of you will have questions regarding Bensen Days. It has been approved by the Wauchula airport authority and is scheduled to go to the city commission for approval at their January meeting. Do not worry. Bensen days has been going on for a long time and has been held in many locations. It will be here, at Wauchula or near us somewhere. As soon as we have the details, we will post them on the forum.
 

All_In

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This is scary stuff!!

What about next year?

This SUCKS!
 

Brent Drake

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And some people wonder why the PRA bought its own airport.
More and more everyday it seems like it was a smart move.
 

GyrOZprey

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Bensen Days 2015 officially have been confirmed by the City of Wauchula and the Airport Advisory Board as of today.
So plan on ahead and let's end speculations.
See ya'll here.

From another thread ... some time ago ....it seemed a done deal ...confirmed! ????? :confused: :noidea:
 

RICK MARTIN

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It only sucks because of having to physically move. But we have that covered as well.

John, please don't worry. This could be a very positive thing. And it's not definite yet. The Wauchula battle is not over yet either. THINK POSITIVE!

Yes, I would expect all three of our hangars to move as well as four or five other fixed wing hangars. If it all goes as planned, it will be a very nice situation.
 

RICK MARTIN

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Chris,

Nobody was trying to mislead

A possible explanation for the ambiguity:

SWARC may have posted that because in the past I don't think the decision to host the event ever really needed to go past the airport authority. I mean it was probably supposed to, but I don't think the airport authority even bothered. That’s when they were acting more like an “authority” instead of an “advisory board”. They still haven’t really resolved that issue.

The bottom line is…………..don’t worry. It’s going to happen.

Everybody just slow down. Let’s let these two situations play themselves out.
 
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Fly Army

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I recall there being a turf strip at Arcadia which would be really nice. I don't know if it's still there or not. The populated areas are also closer to the airport at Arcadia then Wauchula so we would have to be more aware of that and fly accordingly.
 

GyroRon

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Few years ago sunstate had its new years fly-in at River Ranch. Was some issues concerning CFI's giving rides, but otherwise it was the best location for a fly-in we ever had. might be something to look into if Wauchula goes bust.

I know the dirtbike racing world has used river ranch for years for a big GNCC race there in march every year. Talking about over a thousand racers and several thousand spectators. So many people that they used the runway for parking.
 

RICK MARTIN

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Army,

Yes, there is a very usable, active grass strip diagonal to the paved runway. And yes, you would just have to get up and fly a half mile or so to get away from "civilization".

Yea Ron, I've been to River Ranch a couple of times. I think everyone liked it a lot. And because of the amenities, it was perfect for families. And yes, the fly in the ointment was that they would not allow any training.

I checked about the process for Bensen Days approval. My previous statement seems to be true in that I was told last night “It does not have to go to commission. At least it hasn't in the past.”

I made the earlier statement about the need for the second step because the charter and ordinances have multiple references to the fact that everything is subject to the will of the city manager. And because a particular commissioner had also said he had some problems with Bensen Days.

For the record:

1. Unfortunately, in my criticism of Wauchula city officials, it has been construed that I was speaking for Sunstate Wing and Rotor Club. It was never my intention to cause harm to the club or its relationship with the city.

As of now I am resigning my positon on the Sunstate board and cancelling my membership with the club.

I will continue to attend the city’s airport authority meetings and city council meetings to fight for what is right at our airport. At those proceedings I will clarify my disassociation with the club.

I do not want to leave Wauchula. I absolutely love the Wauchula Airport. But I will not be held under the thumb of, taken advantage of, or intimidated by, a person or organization of this nature.

I know there are many people needing to make long range plans. If I hear anything in relation to Bensen Days, I will post it immediately. Nothing has changed as of now.
 

All_In

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My opinion and I'm for PRA too:

Thank you Rick. I was concerned!!
 

GyroRon

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Rick I don't know what all is going on. I've heard about as much as what you've already posted, nothing more. I just wish NO gyro people would have gotten involved with the city over this, because no matter if it was done as a individual or as a group, the city would just see it as the " gyro people " and then the " gyro people " would be on their $hitlist as well.

Defiantly appears some things are going on in that cities government that are not on the up and up.

Just hate that now at this point, wauchula as a home for you guys and a home for the fly-in may not be much longer.

Oh well, whats done is done. Just gotta make a good back up plan and be ready.
 

RayPierce

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More than 20 less than a million.
I can see

I can see

I can see where "only" gyro people could be seen as an issue.
Is there not a friendly FW crowd there that will support the overall community?
Could there be subterfuge from the FW people that you aren't aware of?

That's what happened with an unfriendly flight school instructor concerning ROC in Aiken. And he was on the BOD....... which didn't help.
 

MadMuz

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I bet the FW crowd will be even more supportive if there are hangers with more than one FW in them as well? Might pay to take a look and point out any hangers with multiple planes (and parts of planes)?
 

RICK MARTIN

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No Ray,

We have worked hard to gain the respect of the other FW pilots and do not have a problem there that we know of. There is currently one other hangar housing two "ultralight" Challengers. GA aircraft can't fit two in a hangar.
 

RICK MARTIN

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There are two important meetings coming up in the near future.

January 5 - This will be a Wauchula City Commission workshop to discuss the future of the airport. I understand it will be discussion only. Likely topics will be the possible dissolution of the aiport authority, the use of the campground, maybe Bensen Days benefit to the city, the airport's debt to the city etc.

January 12 - Wauchula City Commission meeting - Being the actual formal meeting, you would expect decisions to possibly be made here.

I, and other pilots will be present and intend to participate. And of course I will post any important developments here for the benefit of all.
 

Jazzenjohn

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It was my understanding that if a community wanted to get rid of a public airport, they needed to pay back the Government all Federal monies given to the community for the airport and any airport projects since it opened? Is that not the case?
 

RICK MARTIN

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John,

I don't know for sure, but I think you are correct.

In our case, I don't believe the city is looking to close down the airport, but to control it. I'll stick my neck out here. I'll predict that since the airport authority started to challenge the city manager's decision, the city will just do away with the airport authority. This would, of course, be a fiasco.

At the meetings, I will argue that for management and safety reasons, the city should keep the airport authority board.
 

RICK MARTIN

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As promised, I am reporting on the first of a series of meetings held by Wauchula city officials as it relates to the long term situation at our airport.

Last night, the city commission held the first "workshop" to discuss airport issues. There were three presenters:
1. The assistant city manager gave an historical/financial presentation describing the past administrative situations and suggesting that the airport authority board be dissolved and that the city commission take over that role. She then outlined the four choices available: 1. dissolve the airport authority and turn its management over to the city commission 2. keep the board as an "advisory board" and subject to the city commission 3. keep the airport as a dependent special district and agency of the city 4. make the airport an independent special district. Currently the airport is a dependent special district and an agency of the city with its own airport "authority" board which is subject to the city commission. But because of very ambiguous language in the charter and ordinances it has usually functioned as an "advisory" board.

2. The finance director gave a comprehensive financial report which showed where the current debt lies. This report actually showed that the majority of the debt was indeed caused by having to match funding responsibilities related to too many expansion projects in a short period of time.
3. An official from an engineering firm spoke and gave some comparisons with other airports regarding things like: structure of management, type of facilities/amenities, hangar occupancy, amount of fuel sold per month etc.

The city manager brought up his concern about having only one aircraft per hangar. And the same commissioner hammered the idea of raising hangar rent and fuel prices. He then complained that they had had a problem in the past getting the airport authority board members to show up in numbers needed for a quorum. They said they had many concerns and will definitely be re-writing the hangar leases in the near future. And someone on the board stated that the campground was in violation of FAA regulations. One commissioner asked if pilots really do drop in just to buy fuel because of low fuel prices.

I rebutted:
1. that the campground was not illegal and that they exist at other airports
2. that the reason for perceived apathy of past airport board members was due to the fact that everything was basically running smooth while Jim took care of most issues himself.
3. that the larger fuel sale numbers at Zephyr Hills was due to being a larger airport and that they have a resident skydiving business on site.
4. that the issue of multiple planes in one hangar is common at most airports and allowed at some of the same airports they were using for comparison. I explained to the commissioners (not pilots) that a T-hangar simply cannot usually accommodate more than one fixed wing aircraft. I explained that the intent of the language in the lease was more than likely designed to keep tenants form using their hangars as storage for other things than aircraft. I explained that we were just fortunate enough to be able to fit multiple machines in our hangars and that we would gladly take a fourth hangar if available. I explained that other airports usually only enforce such a rule when they are losing financially with too many vacant hangars.
5. that yes, indeed pilots do fly out of their way to buy fuel at Wauchula because, unlike the commissioners, I do hear the evidence on the radio.
6. that they should consider using part of the 7 million dollar misappropriated Mosaic mining money to improve the airport
7. that they currently had two highly qualified applicants for the airport "advisory" board

The consensus at the end of the meeting was that they would pursue the idea of dissolving the current airport "authority" board and re-establish it as a clearly defined "advisory" board and that there would be a series of workshops for the purpose of rewriting leases or ordinances related to these topics.

I was promised that I could make my more complete presentation before any final decisions are made. And of course, I will continue to advocate for all the things that will keep our airport alive, financially solvent, gyro friendly and a great place to hold Bensen Days.

More to come -
 
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