Airport district settles hangar dispute; Board agrees to $600,000 payout
A hangar deal gone sour will cost the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District $600,000.
The airport district’s board of directors voted Oct. 30 to settle what had turned into a legal battle between the Truckee-Tahoe Hangar Co. and the airport district.
Attorneys fees for the airport district alone totaled more than $22,000, according to Peter Soderquist, airport district general manager, who said the legal costs spanned more than one year.
“It became an economic decision – pure and simple,” Soderquist said of the settlement. “This was probably the best deal we could have made.”
Second settlement in 1997
The airport district’s $600,000 settlement agreement with the hangar company last week is the second settlement the district has agreed to pay in just more than six months, bringing their settlement spending to $800,000 in that time.
Mary Catherine Tennant, a former airport district general manager who was fired in February 1996 and subsequently filed a gender-based discrimination suit against the district, settled her case against the airport out of court for $200,000 on April 28.
While the hangar company filed suit against the airport district just last year, negotiations on the proposed hangar project began about four years ago.
In November 1993, Gerald Alves and Roger Picchi of Truckee-Tahoe Hangar Co. proposed to the airport board that their company build 25 hangars on airport district land.
The airport board at that time unanimously approved the proposal and accepted a $5,500 lease deposit for about 10 acres of airport district land for the project on the west side of the airport.
More than two years later, in January 1996, a final draft of the lease was prepared by then district general manager Tennant and the airport district’s attorney.
Amidst problems between Tennant and board members, in March 1996 board members questioned the validity of the lease.
The following month district counsel Steve Gross determined that the lease was void because it was not signed by the airport district board president.
The lease was, however, signed by Tennant and another airport official, who is referred to as “Board Secretary” in court documents filed on behalf of the hangar company and as “administrative clerk” in court documents filed by the airport district’s counsel.
After airport officials claimed the hangar company’s lease with the airport district was void, the hangar company filed suit against the airport district in August 1996.
In November 1996, Nevada County Court Judge Andy Holmer ruled that the lease was valid.
Almost one year later, at an Oct. 30 board meeting, the airport directors voted 3-0 to approve a $600,000 settlement.
Directors Donald Bedard, Barbara Northrop and Don Starbard voted to approve the settlement, Robert Marshall abstained and Ken Foster was absent during the vote, according to Soderquist.
He said $300,000 of the settlement will be paid immediately and the remaining $300,000 will be paid on June 30, 1998.
Soderquist said airport officials plan to construct hangars on the land which had been leased to the hangar company, as the company’s 30-year lease on the property was terminated with the settlement.
The airport district had planned another set of hangars in an area which would have required a $400,000 access road.
Soderquist said because the hangars will instead be built on the property previously leased to the hangar company, the road will not be necessary and the $400,000 budgeted for the road will be used to fund $400,000 of the $600,000 settlement costs.
The additional $200,000 needed to pay the settlement cost will come from moneys budgeted for new hangars at the airport.
Soderquist said airport officials plan to begin construction of a first row of 15 hangars on the previously leased land as soon as possible.
About 140 people are on a waiting list for hangars at the airport.
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