Ending a legal battle, the Carroll County commissioners have agreed to drop their lawsuit against a Pennsylvania company hired to develop and sublet seven corporate hangars at Carroll County Regional Airport in exchange for possession of the $3.3 million project.
"With the help of a mediator, we have settled the court case," Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said yesterday at the board's quarterly breakfast meeting with the executive board of Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. "We hope by this time next year, we'll have a successful operation."
Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who also attended the chamber meeting, said a committee is being formed to develop strategies to market the hangars and draft long-term goals for the county airport, north of Westminster. Among those goals will be the creation of a maintenance center that will perform routine service and repairs for corporate clients.
"The central issue is whether the county should operate the hangars or have a fixed-based operator [an outside company] do it," Dell said. "Now we can move ahead and hope we make the right decisions, and be successful."
Two of the 10,000-square- foot hangars have been rented. The remaining five hangars are being used to store construction equipment.
Hangar Corp. of America, based in Springhouse, Pa., and with offices in Los Angeles, was the only company to bid on the hangar project. Daniel M. Hague, company president, hired Argubright Construction of Northridge, Calif., to build the hangars. Scheduled to be completed in August 1999, the project was five months late because Argubright was delayed securing building permits from the county.
Haug could not be reached yesterday. His lawyer, William M. Huddles of Columbia, declined to comment.
Four of the hangars passed county inspection last year, but work on the project came to a halt in October when the commissioners refused to make a final payment of $164,000 to Hangar Corp., claiming the project was incomplete. The county filed suit against the company in Carroll County District Court in March, seeking possession of the hangar project, termination of the contract and $153,036 in lost rent and late fees.
Hangar Corp. had the case moved March 30 to federal court in Baltimore and filed a counterclaim seeking $6.3 million in damages and lost profits. The matter went to mediation in September, before U.S. District Magistrate William Connelly in Greenbelt. As part of the settlement, those lawsuits were dropped, Frazier said.
Yesterday, the commissioners said they hoped to complete construction of the hangars by the end of May. They plan to hire a contractor to finish the hangars and will soon solicit bids, said Patrick Hill, executive assistant to the commissioners.
"As we were looking into this, we found that some things were not done properly," Frazier said. "For instance, there are pipes in the floor for the heating system, but there are no boilers. The boilers needed to heat the floor weren't part of the contract, so we're doing that now."
The hangar project is the latest in a series of improvements county officials hope will make the airport the centerpiece of the county's economic development effort.
A fuel station was recently built at the airport, which has 82 smaller hangars and about 30 outdoor tie-downs. In 1994, the runway was widened and lengthened. At 5,100 feet, it is Maryland's sixth-largest nonmilitary runway.
In October, Dell and Frazier visited the municipal airport in Leesburg, Va., to learn what it takes to successfully manage corporate hangars.