During the July 25, 2017 Commission Meeting, Jet ICU came before the board asking for a determination on whether they could become a Fixed Base Operator (FBO). Since the time of their last application, the Minimum Operating Standards have been increased. Technically the county could not consider their last application since the denial was never appealed and their current application is under the new standards which the company cannot meet. This brought to the forefront the issue that opponents of the new standards warned of. The new standards are too stringent and will stifle competition at the airport. Currently there is only one FBO at the airport- American Aviation.
The following are the select 2015 standards, that the commission voted unanimously to rollback on Aug. 8, 2017.
“Each FBO shall conduct its operations on no less than ten (10) acres, provide for no less than twenty thousand (20,000) square feet of hangar space, provide for no less than ninety thousand (90,000) square feet of paved ramp area space designed at a minimum to accommodate FAA Airplane Design Group II aircraft (wingspans up to seventy-nine (79) feet) and provide for no less than two thousand (2,000) square feet of floor space for office, customer lounge, and permanent rest rooms.”
Ordinance now rolled back to 2004 standards requires,
“The prospective FBO shall lease from the County no less than three (3) acres within the Airport, erect a hangar of no less than 9,000 square feet, provide for and maintain no less than 40,000 square feet of ramp area, provide for and maintain no less than 2,000 square feet of floor space for office, customer lounge, permanent rest rooms, public telephone facilities for customer use and telephone service connections to the Flight Service Station and/or the United States Weather Bureau.”
Because the commission cannot alter the ordinance for a single company, to give them an advantage or assist them, the county was careful to state that ordinance change was initiated because the ordinance “unfairly restricts competition for FBO-services at BKV.”
Commissioner Nicholson and Chairman Dukes spoke about their line of thinking in adopting the more stringent ordinance when they had voted for it in Feb. 2016.
Chairman Dukes said,
“Obviously when this came up in ‘16 I sat here and listened to it. I have spent my whole life on runways, hangars, on airports for the Air Force all over the world. When I heard this new revision I thought something was driving it outside of us and so I agreed to it. But even then I thought, ‘Why are we making it harder to do business in Hernando County?’ The President invited every county commissioner who would come to Washington D.C. for three days and we sat there for hours as different members of his staff spoke to us. What I took from that is government can’t continue to get in the way. Over the last few years in this United States... government entities are slowing down what we do, making unnecessary rules…” He said he would support changing the selected requirements back to 2004 standards.
Commissioner Nicholson said, “I’m in the same boat as our chairman.” He said that in the past the Aviation Authority and prior airport managers purposely stifled competition - to protect their friends. “That’s what this did,” said Nicholson. “I didn’t know that at the time.” He admitted it was a mistake on his part. “I want to correct it today,” he said.
“I’d like to have another FBO out there,” Nicholson said. He added that there are however lots of other requirements other than the three they are changing.
Holcomb was a little more reticent and desired coming up with a number that creates competition.
Going back to the Trump administration, Commissioner Champion cited that the administration’s goal is to eliminate two regulations for every one they put into place.
Currently they are getting rid of 6 regulations to every 1 regulation put in place, he said.
He stated that the airport should want to be attractive to businesses and should get rid of unnecessary regulations.
“Is it the right thing to do for the county? I think it is,” said Champion.
Commissioner Allocco stressed that he wished to be cautious about not removing standards unnecessarily. “I don’t have an issue with changing some of the standards if it makes for a better playing field, however I want to make sure that we don’t just throw out all the standards because we do want to make sure [the airport] is an attractive place for businesses to want to come here.” He was concerned about “too much degradation of the standards.”
Public comment came from Pat Miketinac who has been vocal about the minimum operating standards in the past. Pat Miketinac stated that there are many other requirements in the current Minimum Operating Standards that go beyond what the FAA requires. “What about all the other regulations that are impossible for startups to meet,” he asked. He named investments in facilities and equipment requirements “that are likely unaffordable to a startup company.” He continued, “If startups are shut out only well established businesses can afford to come here. If they are that well established, why would they risk coming here? There isn’t enough activity here to support another FBO of that size. However a smaller FBO could grow with the county and bring in more business.”
Shirley Miketinac said, “We appreciate the start on revising the standards. We investigated many of the airports across Florida and the US and found that our standards are stricter than many.” She specifically mentioned flight school rules. “I want to thank you for your common sense and for your intelligence and for being open to this.”
Robert Morris also delivered public comment. He served on the Aviation Authority when the 2004 minimum operating standards were passed and helped to develop them. He stated that back in 2004, they wanted to make sure that they were in uniformity with other airports. He urged the commission to look to what their motivation is in reverting back to the 2004 standards. If it is to accommodate a business in order to compete with an existing business, then they may have issues with FAA regulation 51 - 90, which could affect the airport’s ability to get grants.
Attorney Jon Jouben explained that in Santa Rosa county last year, the airport got caught discriminating against the existing FBO by making standards less stringent.
However he said, “I believe that this particular change does not violate that [FAA reg. 51-90]. At the time the contract [with American Aviation] was done, these were the rules in place.”
The board voted unanimously to roll back the identified sections to the 2004 Minimum Operating Standards.