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Airport officials to address concerns about leases

July 17, 1998

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

Washington County Regional Airport officials agreed Thursday to address concerns voiced by local pilots about their lease with the county to house their airplanes.

The lease was to have gone into effect July 31, but the advisory Washington County Regional Airport Commission voted to postpone the change until the end of August while officials review the concerns.

Pilots said they are concerned the lease is too restrictive, gives the county too much authority to search their hangars and does not provide enough legal protection.

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"I know several people who have left flying because of this, and it's a shame," said Gerald Zimmerman, president of the Washington County Airport Association, which represents about 160 pilots.

The current lease, which applies to pilots who rent the airport's 152 hangars, went into effect in 1993. Monthly rents for the general aviation hangars range from $117 to $222.

Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said pilots have been renting the hangars on a month-to-month basis since the previous lease expired.

One major change in the new lease would require pilots to buy $1 million worth of property insurance, up from $500,000 under the old agreement.

That would increase the premiums pilots must pay and several said it would be a heavy burden for pilots who fly infrequently.

"It seems like government by the people, for the people has perished. It's more like government by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats," said Don Wilson, whose Experimental Aircraft Association leases a hangar.

Motz said airport officials decided to increase the insurance requirement after long consideration. She said many other airports have increased the requirement and the Federal Aviation Administration has recommended a minimum of $1 million.

Pilot John Luce said he does not think pilots should have to sign a "hold harmless" clause to insulate the county against lawsuits.

In the lease, pilots agree to indemnify the Washington County Commissioners, "its members, agents and employees, their successors and assigns," against liability.

It also requires the tenant to pay all expenses in defending the county against claims when the tenant is at fault.

Several pilots also objected to a clause that requires them to include the county on their insurance policies.

Luce said the change would cause his premiums to rise by 60 percent. In effect, he said, his policy would provide less coverage and cost more.

Another point of contention centers on restrictions on hangar use. It limits the equipment that can be stored there. Cars cannot be parked in the hangar except when the aircraft normally there is on a flight, for instance.

The lease also gives the airport the right to enter the hangar at any time without notice to inspect it.

County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, the county's representative to the airport commission, agreed to take the liability concerns to the county's insurance department.

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