Springdale Airport Wants Man's 6.6 Acres

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.

During the spring and fall migrations, thousands of black birds perch in the trees that cover up to three-fourths of Hicks' property. Though there are no reports of birds striking jets, the airport's Web site lists morning and evening bird activity as a precaution to potential clients. Clearing the woods would likely solve the bird issue, Airport Manager James Smith said.

It would also solve the canine problem.

"Every once in a while a coyote comes out from the woods," Smith said. "We've actually chased him off the field a couple of times." Pinnacle Air, the fixed base operator at the Springdale airport, offers 24-hour charter service for corporate executives. Pinnacle also services incoming jets.

Even if the runway were expanded by only 200 feet, a Learjet 60 could take on enough fuel to fly an additional 290 miles from what's now possible. If that were the case, Pinnacle could market Springdale as a fuel hub. The result would be increased fuel sales and increased revenue for the city.

As an example, Erdmann points to a typical charter flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas.

"He's got to stop somewhere along the way for fuel," Erdmann said.

Runway lengths

Even with a proposed 300-foot expansion, Springdale's runway would be shorter than many in Arkansas:

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport: 8,800

Little Rock, Adams Field: 8,273, 7,200, 5,124

Fort Smith Regional Airport: 8,000, 5,002

Texarkana, Webb Field: 6,601, 5,200

Jonesboro Municipal Airport: 6,200, 4,099

Rogers, Carter Field: 6,011

Fayetteville, Drake Field: 6,006

Pine Bluff, Grider Field: 5,998

Springdale Municipal Airport: 5,302

Source: Federal Aviation Administration

This article was published 02/25/2007

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