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4:22 PM Tue, Dec. 18th

City OKs new 10-year lease for airport restaurant

PRESCOTT - A new lease will give owners of the long-time restaurant at the Prescott Airport the right to continue on at their current site, but will give them no preference at a new terminal site.

That was the result of a half-hour-long discussion by the Prescott City Council Tuesday on the proposed 10-year lease for Susie's Skyway Restaurant at the Prescott Airport.

While council members appeared ready at one point to postpone a decision because of a number of questions, they ultimately agreed to a revised version of the lease.

Under the originally proposed lease, tenants George and Susan Sullivan would have had the first opportunity to negotiate a new lease, should the city build a new airport terminal in the next 10 years.

Several council members voiced concern about that, however.

Councilwoman Jean Wilcox initially said she could not support a 10-year lease without putting the restaurant operation out for proposal.

"I still feel that this ought to be put out to bid," Wilcox said at the outset of the discussion. "I think we need to provide an opportunity for any other restaurateur in the community to make a proposal..."

Although Councilman Chris Kuknyo said he normally would agree, he maintained that the current unusable condition of much of the restaurant's kitchen equipment made the situation more urgent.

"This has gone on too long already," Kuknyo said. "These people have been damaged enough by our procrastination."

At the same time, however, Kuknyo said, "When a new terminal is built, it needs to go out to bid and be open to everybody."

When other council members agreed, City Attorney Jon Paladini pointed out that the original wording of the lease conflicted with those views.

"This could prevent that or preclude that," Paladini said. "If you want to have a clean slate, then this language probably should be removed."

The Sullivans were absent from this week's meeting, but longtime Prescott resident and airport user John Olsen said, "I just feel like I have to speak up on behalf of the tenants."

Olsen maintained that the restaurant offers a value to those who use the airport, and he criticized the city for not taking care of the kitchen issues more quickly.

(Since about June, the kitchen's hood, grill, and deep fryer have been red-tagged, and available for use).

"I think it's totally unconscionable for the city to have dragged this out from last June until now," Olsen said. "You can't believe the way the clientele has disappeared simply because she can't put out a full menu. You need to find a way to approve this contract."

Under the lease agreement, the city proposed spending as much as $25,000 to replace key elements of the aging kitchen. The monthly rent would then increase to help cover those costs - from the current $331 per month to $850 per month for the first two years, and $1,186 per month thereafter.

The council ultimately agreed to revised lease language that Wilcox proposed, which eliminated the tenants' first opportunity to negotiate a new lease at a new terminal.

Councilman Jim Lamerson emphasized that the lease also includes "a 180-day option for both the tenant or city, if market conditions change, that either one has an opportunity to remove themselves from the lease."

The new lease will go into effect on June 1, and the city will have until April 1 to complete the kitchen repairs.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks