An agreement has landed

August 30th, 2019



WMU space will be shared, jobs preserved

PUNTA GORDA — At Thursday’s special meeting, Airport Authority board members decided the final fate of hangar 115 and its office building, which formerly housed a Western Michigan University flight school.  The space will have two tenants. AeroGuard will have a one-year lease to immediately establish a flight training center at the airport, taking on current students and hiring current WMU employees, according to WMU employee Debbie Ederer.  Charlotte County School Board will also have a lease for 10 years, three of those to establish an Aviation Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics certification course.

The Airport Authority’s attorney, Darol Carr, presented this compromise Thursday, in which the two entities will have concurrent leases on the space. The board voted unanimously for lease negotiations. The board will vote on the lease agreement Sept. 19.

“This is good for the airport, the students and the county overall,” said Airport Authority chair Pam Seay. “I can foresee them to work together (in the future.)” “I’m excited and ready to get started,” said school board member Cara Reynolds. “We’re offering a low-cost program that will lead to good-paying jobs. It’s good for the entire community.”

In December, Charlotte Technical College received a $1.7 million grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to establish this program at the airport.  Western Michigan University announced its departure Feb. 12, after just two years and $2 million spent in building improvements, equipment and training to support its aviation flight training degree.

The school officially closes its doors Saturday.  Since then, the Charlotte County Airport Authority has been determining how to fill the space, and received bids from both the Charlotte County School Board and AeroGuard in May for the space. Two other entities, CAE and APG Avionics, also submitted letters of interest in June.

The board asked interested parties at their June meeting to fill out requests for proposals to get more details on each option.  Three of the four original interested parties, Charlotte County School Board, AeroGuard and APG Avionics, ended up submitting their RFPs. The board tentatively planned to approve a lease in August, but decided at the meeting to table the issue and have their legal team meet with interested parties to pursue mutual use of the facility.

They then planned Thursday’s special meeting to discuss the issue further, where the board decided to negotiate the leases. “We look forward to our new partnership with the airport,” said Charlotte County Public Schools spokesperson Mike Riley.  The school board has made contact with the FAA and are scheduling a meeting to get additional information on the process to get approved. “The program will begin as soon as possible but it is contingent on FAA Certification,” Riley said.

The Charlotte County Airport Authority’s next monthly meeting with a budget hearing is Sept. 19 at 9 a.m. The meeting will be in the board room at 7375 Utilities Road, Building 313 in Punta Gorda.