Archived Story

Failed negotiations result in airport FBO leaving

Published 5:20pm Monday, June 17, 2013

Failure to work out a contract suitable to both parties resulted in Tradewind Aviation moving its operations from Washington’s airport to Martin County’s airport, according to spokesmen for both parties.

Thomas Dolder, owner of Tradewind Aviation, said his company and the City of Washington were unable to come to terms regarding a new contract for Tradewind Aviation to continue serving as the fixed-base operator at the city’s Warren Field Airport. Tradewind had been managing the airport for the city for several years. That relationship ended in October 2012 when Tradewind moved its flight school and skydiving center to the Martin County Airport outside Williamston.

Dolder, in an interview Monday, said his contract with the city expired during the lengthy, unfruitful negotiations with the city over a new contract.

“There were two different proposals. One was formally not acceptable because it had to meet formal requirements. My proposal … we made a very good proposal. It looked like the City of Washington was selecting us. Then they submitted to us a contract to be signed. The contract was not in our favor at all,” Dolder said.

Asked if that contract was the one that included a $5 fee per skydiver per jump, Dolder said, “Actually, more than $5. It included more than the $5. The whole contract was so much delayed between April and September. We pushed and pushed and talked to the city manager and to the member of the City Council because I wanted to have this contract negotiated. They didn’t give me a draft, therefore the time was running out. September was coming and we still had not entered into contract negotiations. Then, finally, they presented us a contract that apparently was not acceptable to none of us. We had to move out because my current contract expired.”

Dolder said the $5 fee per skydiver per jump the city wanted as part of the contract could have been negotiated. It was more the failure to hammer out a new contract than the proposed fee that resulted in Tradewind moving its operations from Washington to Martin County, Dolder said.

Matt Rauschenbach, interim city manager and the city’s chief financial officer, explained the city’s take on the matter.

“We went out for bids for FBOs — fixed-based operators, I think that’s what they’re called. Their (Tradewind) contract expired about a year ago. None of the bids came back acceptable. So, we decided to run it ourselves. That’s it in a nutshell,” he said. “It was mainly a financial issue. We couldn’t come to terms on that.”

Rauschenbach said one of the city’s proposed contracts included the $5 per jump per skydiver fee. Rauschenbach, like Dolder, indicated that fee was not a key factor in the two parties not signing a new contract and Tradewind leaving the Washington airport.

John Rogers, who runs Tradewind Sky Sports, said the proposed $5 fee and other proposed increases did not sit well with Tradewind.

“That was correct. They wanted a $5-per-jumper tax and some increases in other things. We purchased 7,000 gallons of fuel there annually. Apparently that didn’t make any difference to them,” Rogers said. “We had a big economic footprint in Washington. It’s shame; we liked it there.”

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