By Carolyn Roy, Carolyn@natchitochestimes.com or 318-352-3618 ext 219
Among the controversial items at the City Council Monday was one concerning the lease of a hangar at Natchitoches Regional Airport. It’s not a new problem for the City. It’s been ongoing for almost five years. Marc Millican wants to lease a hangar for an annual fee of $2,178 for 10 years. Millican spoke to the council saying he is a 20-year veteran of the US Air Force who has been flying for 40 years. He owns Magnolia Aviation, a tourist business at the airport, and has three employees. He said he hopes to help the City grow through aviation by growing the airport. At one time, during a previous lease, the name on the building he owns at the hangar was in one name and the lease was in another. Councilman Dale Nielsen asked about that discrepancy. Millican said that now they do because he owns the hangar and the lease.
Councilman Eddie Harrington asked City Attorney Ronald Corkern to speak to the issue and Corkern had plenty to say. “All the airport wants is a good neighbor and Mr. Millican has not been a good neighbor, at least in the last five years I have been involved,” Corkern said. About a year ago, Corkern learned that Millican sold the hangar to Thomas Petrie and Ingrid Teale in May of 2019. According to Corkern, the City must be notified and approve sale of the hangar and lease but that did not happen. According to Corkern, Millican sold part of the hangar, on lot three, twice, just months apart. Corkern said Millican remodeled the hangar and made part of it a living pad and hosted parties with as many as 50 people. “You gave the gate code to others.”
Corkern said there were incidents of a bus on the runway and a motorcycle speeding up and down the runway. He said at one time the hangar was filled with equipment and at one time was empty. “You had everything but an airplane in the hangar.” Corkern said there was no way Millican could generate revenue for the airport through maintenance and fuel sales if he had no airplane. Other concerns were about whether once canceled insurance had been renewed; that Millican filed two complaints with the FAA against the airport board that were deemed unfounded and without merit; and Millican had cost the City legal fees in litigation. Corkern said Millican sold the building he owned at the airport, worth about $200,000, for $300 to someone else to get a lease.
“That’s a sham sale to get this passed by the City Council for a new lease.” Corkern suggested a three year lease instead of 10. While it was not mentioned at the meeting, the airport commission passed a resolution at its meeting Sept. 21 saying it remained unchanged in its opposition to the City granting Millican a lease. During previous negotiations, the airport commission also obtained an opinion from the FAA that stated “…due to the hangar being owned by an individual different from the individual who has obtained a ground lease, the city should execute the reversion clause as prescribed by the lease.”
Millican’s attorney, Edwin Burg of Shreveport, then began to answer some of Corkern’s concerns. He said there were problems early on but there had been no problems recently and that litigation had gone nowhere. He said he was 100 percent sure there would be no difficulty with the lease and that the complaints against Millican were no legal reason to not grant him a lease. He said the problems were not significant and asked the council to look at the merits of granting the lease. He acknowledged that Millican had once sold the hangar to someone else in an effort to get the lease and move forward. He asked the council to “let him try to do what he’s trying to do. This needs to end.”
If Millican does not get the lease, he will lose the building, a measure he termed Draconian (harsh). He said Millican now owns both sides of the hangar and it is insured. Airport manager Larry Cooper said if the lease is not approved, Millican will have 60 days to remove the building or the City can offer him the appraised value. He too acknowledged that there had been problems, such as the bus on the runway and people entering the gate, but not much had happened in the last year. He said Millican now has a plane in the hangar as of a week ago. He met with the Mayor and Millican and recommended to “put all this behind us and move forward.”
The ordinance to approve the lease was introduced at the meeting Monday and the vote will come at the Oct. 12 meeting. In other business, Emma Byrd appealed to the council to give attention to the area around her home at 1987 South Drive, in front of the B&D Trailer Park. She said the grass is so high you can’t see people driving in. As you enter the highway, Saidee Drive has no street sign. She said her car went “bump, bump, bump” and she needed some action there.
Byrd has lived there since Nov. 11, 1942. “What are you intend to do about it? The weeds are up almost to the windshield.” Byrd said that if the City could find money for parks, it could find money for road maintenance and cutting the grass. Councilpersons Dale Nielsen and Betty Sawyer-Smith agreed that the area needed work.