Flying through the overcast

Carroll County: With new hangars empty by legal dispute, builder proves demand for airport space.

September 27, 2000

IT MAY not be legally proper, but at least you have to give credit to the guy who's trying to make good use of the vacant hangars at Carroll County Regional Airport.

Four of the seven new corporate hangars at the airport are being marketed to tenants by the California contractor who built them. Recently, Steve Argubright acknowledged renting space to three customers, with the money put in a local bank account. "Somehow, the hangars have to get rented," he says in frustration.

Meantime, the rest of the 70,000-square-foot, $3.3 million project sits unoccupied, as it has for nearly a year. The county refuses to finally approve three of the seven hangars, while in prolonged legal haggling with the Philadelphia firm that was to develop and manage the project.

Two years ago, the Carroll commissioners hired Hangar Corporation of America to construct the hangars and lease them to corporate clients, paying fees to the county.

The county investment was to get back about $3 million over 40 years in fees. More importantly, it was to build up business at the Westminster area airport and stimulate industrial development in Carroll County.

And $15 million in state, federal and county funds were spent to build a mile-long runway and fuel storage system to lure small corporate jets away from Baltimore Washington International Airport.

But the Carroll airport continues to operate at a loss, costing county taxpayers $83,000 last year alone. The airport's longtime lessee-operator has had financial and management problems.

This week, a federal magistrate is to mediate the festering contract dispute between Carroll and Hangar Corp. Amid this legal impasse, Mr. Argubright has shown that there's a ready, waiting demand. It's past time to get this development project off the ground.

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