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Commission sues airline over lost rent

March 27, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners have filed a suit against the airline that runs a state-subsidized shuttle service from Hagerstown and Cumberland to Baltimore, alleging the airline owes the county more than $35,000 in rent, according to a lawsuit filed in Washington County Circuit Court on Wednesday.

The Board of County Commissioners, which oversees Hagerstown Regional Airport, said in the suit filed Wednesday that New Hampshire-based Boston-Maine Airways Corp. has missed payments since May 2002.

Dan Fortnam, Boston-Maine vice president of sales and marketing, said he was not aware of the suit until a reporter called.

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"It's unfortunate that this is how I have to learn about it," he said.

He had no further comment.

The county is suing the airline for almost $42,406, according to the lawsuit.

The county alleges in the suit that the airline owes $32,466 in rent and $3,446 in late fees. The county also is asking for $6,493 in legal fees for having to sue to get the rent.

The airline's Clipper Connection flies from Cumberland to Hagerstown to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

By June 30, the state will have spent about $4.25 million over 11/2 years to subsidize the airline, which was enticed to come to Hagerstown by the state money, Hagerstown Regional Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said in January.

The Maryland Aviation Administration has recommended that the state end subsidies to Boston-Maine after June 30, and the governor did not include money for the airline in his budget released in January.

Two months ago, Fortnam and Motz said the airline's business in Hagerstown was healthy, and they believed business would be self-sufficient by the end of June.

According to information Motz provided in January, an average of 2.4 people per flight had flown the Clipper Connection, which can carry 17, to or from Hagerstown to Baltimore through December 2002.

Boston-Maine began its service to Hagerstown on Dec. 31, 2001, according to information in the suit. In a lease agreement with the county included in the suit, the company agreed to pay $49,440 in rent for the first year in addition to landing fees. It was to pay $50,923 in the second year of the lease, plus landing fees.

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