Finksburg firm sues in airport dispute

Fight with companies over hangars costs Carroll $1,000 a day

April 11, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

When Carroll County commissioners hired a Pennsylvania company to build seven corporate hangars at the county airport two years ago, they said the $3.3 million project would be the centerpiece of local economic development efforts.

The hangars are attracting attention -- but not the kind that enhances the airport's image.

A Finksburg construction company has filed a civil lawsuit against the county and the developer, Hangar Corp. of America. The commissioners are refusing to pay Hangar Corp. for the project at Jack B. Poage Carroll County Regional Airport north of Westminster.

None of the hangars has a paying tenant because of the disputes.

According to the lawsuit filed Friday in Carroll County Circuit Court, Meekins Construction Inc. of Finksburg says it is owed $125,567 for landscaping, road repairs and utility work. Stewart Meekins, owner of the paving and excavating company, asked the court to establish a claim, known as a mechanic's lien, against the hangars on his behalf.

Attempts to contact Meekins were unsuccessful yesterday. William S. Davis Jr., Meekins' lawyer, said: "All I can say is that we are trying to collect money owed to my client."

The Meekins lawsuit is the second to be filed in a contract dispute between Hangar Corp. and the county commissioners that is costing Carroll at least $1,000 a day in lost revenue.

The commissioners filed a lawsuit last month in Carroll County District Court against Hangar Corp. seeking $153,036 for six months of lost rental revenue and repossession of the corporate hangars. The case was remanded to U.S. District Court in Baltimore on March 30.

Under a contract signed in 1998, Hangar Corp. agreed to develop and then manage the hangars, with the county receiving a share of the company's revenue from leasing space to corporate tenants.

Steve Brown, the airport manager, said Carroll expects to earn "at least $1,000 a day when the hangars are rented, and that doesn't even include the money we would receive from fuel sales."

The airport project has been stalled since October, when the three-member Board of County Commissioners refused to make a final payment of $164,000 to Hangar Corp. for construction of seven hangars because the county says the work is not complete. Hangar Corp. officials dispute that.

Because of the litigation, the county may not see that revenue for some time, Four of the hangars have passed county inspection, but none has a paying tenant. Daniel M. Haug, president of Hangar Corp., said the dispute has caused several prospective tenants to look elsewhere for a place to park their corporate jets.

Scheduled to be completed in August 1999, the project was five months late because of delays in securing building permits from the county.

The hangars, a longer runway and a new fuel station are part of a program that county officials hope will make the airport a favored stop for pilots flying over the mid-Atlantic states.

The airport now has 81 smaller hangars and about 30 planes tied down outdoors. County officials are working to speed the arrival of a Global Positioning System satellite link, which would guide aircraft in inclement weather.

Hangar Corp. was the only company to bid on the hangar project and hired Argubright Construction of Northridge, Calif., to do the construction. Argubright hired Meekins' company to do utility and landscaping work.

None of the three commissioners would comment on the project yesterday, noting the possibility of further litigation with Hangar Corp.

"There's nothing I can say at this point," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge.

The commissioners hired Roger W. Titus, a private attorney in Rockville, to handle the dispute.

"I haven't seen the action filed by Mr. Meekins' lawyer yet," Titus said. "I am sure that once I review it, we will prepare and file an appropriate response."

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