FAA orders work halted

PARIS - The Federal Aviation Administration has given the county until mid-October to stop non-aviation related activities at the Oxford County Regional Airport in Oxford .

The agency specifically refers to work being done at Oxford Aviation, a business that rents space at the county airport to refurbish aircraft. An inspection of the airport in August found the facility was in violation of FAA grant assurances.

Work included painting truck tractors at the facility, as well as parking the tractors on an active ramp designed for aircraft use. It also referred to fueling vehicles at the airport's fuel station and a pile of junk on a ramp near the station.

At August's meeting of the Oxford County commissioners, Oxford Aviation President Jim Horowitz said racing vehicles were being fueled by container and not by driving across airport property. He also said he would remove junk and cease work on the trucks, though he would appeal the latter action.

"This secondary, non-aviation use would in absolutely no way interfere with the primary aviation uses at the facility," he said in an Aug. 30 letter to commissioners. He asked that less than 5 percent of the facility be used for work on the trucks.

Horowitz said the non-aviation work had been approved in Oxford Aviation's leases with airports in Fryeburg and Sanford. He also said the work would create 10 to 15 jobs for the county.

The letter was forwarded to the FAA in early September with a note that the trucks had not been removed from the airport. Donna Witte, airports program specialist with the FAA's New England Region, responded to the request in a letter Sept. 17.

"The letter states that the painting of trucks will not interfere with airport use, however, these trucks are taking up aircraft tie- down space," writes Witte.

Witte states that the FAA is mandated by Congress to prevent non- aviation use from taking space at airports. She disputed Horowitz's claims regarding the Fryeburg and Sanford airports, saying the FAA has not reviewed the Fryeburg lease and has objected to non- aviation uses at Sanford.

Witte said a county may change their airport layout plan, but "any approval would be based solely on the interest to aviation."

"Any use for other than aviation would require a fee structure at current fair market value for the use of off-airport industrial uses," she writes.

Witte asks that the county discontinue non-aviation activities at the airport within 30 days of the letter. The deadline falls near a similar one established by commissioners in July, when the board threatened to terminate the lease within 90 days if Oxford Aviation did not stop work on the trucks.

"I think he's broken his lease," Commissioner Caldwell Jackson said of Howowitz.

Commissioner Steven Merrill said that while he wanted to retain the jobs that Oxford Aviation supplies, he also wants the business to abide by the lease agreement.

The commissioners spoke of the possible need for legal action against Horowitz, and Jackson suggested that the lease be conducted on a year-to-year basis.

"I think we've got to hit him head-on," he said. "He has no respect for this board."

Attempts to reach Horowitz were unsuccessful Tuesday night.