Commissioners Back Down On Plans To Sell To Developers
The people of Everglades
City (FL) spoke and, apparently, Collier County Commissioners were
listening. They had threatened to shut down the airport and sell it
to developers. But at a Tuesday night commission meeting, they got
both barrels from residents who support the airpark and don't want
it to be turned into condos.
"The airport is extremely important to Everglades City,"
resident Claudia Davenport said. She was quoted in the Naples Daily
News. "People fly in and buy stone crabs. They fly in and stay two
or three days. The economy would suffer greatly without it."
The Everglades City Council stood solidly behind the airport as
well. Members passed a resolution saying, if the county were to
pull out, it "intends to use its best efforts to take possession
and continue the operation of the airpark on behalf of the
Everglades City community." There was an iron fist in that velvet
glove as well. Council members said flat-out that they would refuse
to change the airport's zoning if the county opted to sell it to
Commissioners had been thinking about selling the airpark
because the county's airport authority is more than $10 million in
debt to the county. But after hearing the rousing testimony of
airport supporters, Commissioner Jim Coletta said, I hear everyone
talking on this commission, and it sounds like we are all in
agreement, that there is a need for an airport there. I don't think
anyone here is going to carry a cause forward that it should go
Commissioners agreed to start talking it over with officials in
But that still leaves the county airport authority in debt to
the county itself. Commissioners are now looking at other ways to
reduce the authority's impact on taxpayers.
The authority runs three airports -- in Everglades City,
Immokalee and Marco Island. Commissioners are thinking about
putting an ad in the Wall Stree Journal to outsource airport
services now provided by the county to a private company.
That idea may fly with commissioners, but may not with private
airport operators. During the meeting on Tuesday, Commission
Chairman Tom Henning said, "I'm thinking, what business person,
what wise business person, would come to Southwest Florida to
operate an airport that runs at a deficit."
Commissioner Fred Coyle thinks Immokalee would be a great place
for a freight operation -- perhaps even a start-up. "I think we
have a lot of good selling factors, particularly with (the
proposed) Ave Maria (University), and the town, and things like
that coming up. So that's the purpose of this. It's not necessarily
just to turn over operations to somebody. It's to solicit ideas
about how somebody could come here and start a business that would
be beneficial to Collier County."