Springdale Airport Wants Man's 6.6 Acres

Airport officials want to expand the 5,302-foot runway by more than 300 feet to make the airport more attractive to crosscountry jets stopping for fuel.

SPRINGDALE, Mo. -- The owner of 6.6 acres at the south end of Springdale's municipal airport has no intention of selling the land for what the city's offered, his attorney said.

City Finance Manager Wyman Morgan approached Lloyd Hicks with a $428,000 offer in October, but Hicks never responded." He hasn't accepted it and doesn't intend to," Fayetteville attorney Tom Pearson said. "He wants to get all he can." A previous offer from a private investor was "substantially more" than $428,000, Pearson said, and a previous appraisal was higher than the city's.

Pearson wouldn't say what Hicks thinks the property is worth. Morgan said he has yet to see the outside offer and appraisal touted by Pearson.

Airport officials want to expand the 5,302-foot runway by more than 300 feet to make the airport more attractive to crosscountry jets stopping for fuel. Without Hicks' land, the expansion is impossible. "It has been on the drawing board for a long time," Morgan said.

The improvements would make it possible for a Learjet 60 filled with executives to fly from Springdale to Los Angeles without having to stop in Las Vegas for fuel, said Nelson Erdmann, director of operations for corporate jet operator Pinnacle Air.

"It's extremely significant," Erdmann said. "You could attract substantially more fuel sales with a longer runway." But Morgan and airport officials must first make an offer that Hicks will accept. The city could take the property through condemnation.

Meanwhile, Morgan said the city is waiting on an official, written rejection.

"I was hoping that they would accept the appraised value," Morgan said.

Reed and Associates of Springdale appraised the property in July.

That appraisal was reviewed by an outside agency in October.

The last time the city purchased property for the airport it took nearly three years to close the deal.

"Sometimes it takes a while," Morgan said.

Even with an expansion, Springdale's runway would be smaller than those of general aviation airports in Rogers, Fayetteville, Pine Bluff and Jonesboro. Still, it makes sense to enlarge the runway, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association spokesman Chris Dancy said.

"For general aviation airports, fuel sales are usually a significant source of income, if not the dominant form of income," Dancy said. "[An expansion] is something that corporate and charter jet pilots would look at. It definitely has value." Fuel sales at Springdale municipal have declined in the last few years, airport records show. In 2004, the airport reported 758,000 gallons in fuel sales. Sales dropped to 748,000 gallons in 2005 and 599,000 gallons in 2006.

Morgan told Hicks in a Jan. 5 letter that selling the land and using the money for a certificate of deposit at a rate of 5.3 percent would earn him $22,684 per year.

"I was trying to point out that he was losing money [by not selling]," Morgan said.

Airport Commissioner Verl Thompson appreciated the tactic.

"I thought it was smart that you told him how much money he could make on the CD," Thompson said during a Feb. 15 commission meeting. Hicks was present at that meeting but said nothing.

The airport plans to pay for the property with grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and the state. The airport would borrow the money from the Springdale general fund and reimburse that account once it received the federal and state dollars.

The property once was used by Sequoia Engineering and Manufacturing Co., headed by Hicks' late father, Henry Hicks. A 4,560-square-foot warehouse on the property contains equipment used by Hicks' father, who built portable irrigation pumps and recreated auto accidents for court cases.

Hick's father bought the land in 1970 and built the warehouse in 1972.

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