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2:32 AM Mon, Oct. 15th

Prescott council open to new ground lease at airport

PRESCOTT - Amenities at the Prescott Airport should improve noticeably in coming months with the likely arrival of a new ground lease agreement.

While Prescott City Council members have yet to take a final vote on the lease, they were receptive to the plans on Tuesday. The matter will be on the council's consent agenda for the Sept. 11 meeting - usually an indication that all of the members support an action.

Airport Manager Ben Vardiman explained that the new ground lease would allow Legend Aviation - a private business - to develop a number of improvements at the airport, including new aircraft storage hangars and passenger and pilot services such as rental car service, catering, aircraft cleaning, and aviation-related sales.

Along with the improvements to services, Vardiman said the lease also would be financially advantageous for the city. While the current ground lease at the airport brings in about $1,200 per month, he said, the new lease would generate $7,814 per month.

Maintaining that the ground lease proposal is "a big deal for the City of Prescott," Councilman Bob Bell said: "We'll look back at this time and say, 'this is the time the airport finally grew up.'"

Councilman Jim Lamerson also expressed support for the plans.

"It's nice to see something emanating from the private sector," he said.

The Prescott Airport currently has a waiting list for use of its city-owned hangars, Vardiman said, with prospective renters often waiting about three-and-half years for the storage units.

While the hangars that Legend Aviation plans to build would not accommodate all of the waiting customers, Vardiman said, "The private/public partnership would help."

Legend's proposal stems from a request for proposals that the city released in April. The RFP identified about five acres in the south-to-southeast portion of the airport, adjacent to the Arizona AirCraftsman property.

Vardiman calls the lease a "major step forward in the development of facilities at the airport," adding that Legend's project would bring a "high-quality component."

The pilot and customer services would cater mostly to private pilots and charter companies, Vardiman said, and would not affect the commercial aviation services at the city's main terminal.

If the council does approve the ground lease next week, Vardiman expects work to begin soon on the project.

"(Legend) has a very aggressive timetable," he said, with a year to a year-and-a-half expected for build-out.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com