Growth at Suffolk airport closer to reality

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 19, 2004

The city is reviewing five franchise proposals for projects that could launch the long-awaited growth at Suffolk Executive Airport.

Roger Leonard and Larry Pennington, who already operate businesses at the Carolina Road airport, were the only two people who responded to the city’s request-for-proposals to expand the facility, Eric Nielsen, director of public works, told the Suffolk City Council on Wednesday. Over the next two months, city staff will evaluate the impact of each proposed project on the airport.

Leonard, owner of Cardinal’s Pilot Shop, proposed four projects:

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nA service/maintenance facility, with an investment of $68,000;

nA 12,000-square-foot hangar, at an investment of $268,000;

nAn 8,000-square-foot storage hangar in the corporate area, with an investment of $168,000;

nA four-building combination of office and hangar space, also in the corporate area. The project calls for one 10,000-square-foot building, two 8,000-square-foot buildings and a 4,200-square-foot building, with a total investment of $420,000.

Leonard pledged to buy 1,000 gallons of fuel annually with each proposal.

Larry Pennington, owner of Skydive Suffolk, submitted the fifth proposal to double his current operation. His proposal calls for leasing a 20,000-square-foot building at $2,400 annually and purchasing 113,000 gallons of fuel per year.

Both Leonard and Pennington are calling for changes in the city’s proposed contract.

Leonard said the contract is too restrictive for potential investors, prompting at least five people who had initially expressed interest in projects to not submit proposals.

The city has nine lots, including six in the area earmarked for corporate growth, which are almost complete, said Kent Marshall, the airport’s executive director.

The city has invested about $450,000 in completing the first phase of the corporate project. Work completed includes taxiing lanes, storm drainage, site preparation like filling and grading; and paving the tarmac.

City water is already connected and city sewer will be available by Oct. 5, 2005. Fiberoptic networking for computers is already available, said Marshall.

In other business, the council:

*Accepted a donation of a dilapidated produce wagon and a $200 contribution to restore it from city businessman Andy Damiani.

The tourism department has determined the wagon’s steel chassis is in good condition and could be rebuilt as a display for fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market. The carpentry class at the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology may rebuild the cart as a class project.

*Ordinance appropriating a $14,394 Home Safe Home grant from the Virginia Department of Health. The Suffolk Fire and Rescue Department will use the grant to implement an elderly fall and fire prevention program for the city’s senior citizens.