CASTROVILLE, Texas -- Tenants who violated their lease for municipal airport hangars won't automatically be ousted, but must come into compliance if they expect to remain.
The City Council adopted that stance Monday despite efforts by Mayor Pro Tem Hank Seay III to cease business with any tenants who paid rent late three times in one year, were more than 30 days late once, or kept cars or trucks in hangars.
He said every leaseholder for the 28 small hangars and a handful of commercial hangars has violated a rental agreement.
The vehicles and other problems were discovered in a Jan. 8 inspection by the city that Seay said was conducted to see if corrective action had been taken on fire code violations identified by the state last summer.
City workers told the council Monday that the state had given the city until late March to correct some problems, but Deputy State Fire Marshal Brad Westberry said Tuesday that no timeline for corrective action has been set.
Seay also is pushing for collection of about $3,500 in late rent fees apparently waived by a former airport manager.
"How about we replace the people who don't pay with people who do?" said Seay, asserting his goal is to make the airport more self-sufficient.
Doubtful that prospective new tenants abound given the turmoil at the airstrip, Councilwoman Kyle McVay said of late-payers, "I think people should have the opportunity to pay without being penalized."
Scott Tschirhart, assistant city attorney, said penalizing tenants for past lease breaches would bolster the chance of suits against the city and suggested lease provisions be enforced in the future.
A motion to direct interim City Administrator Joe Painter not to renew leases with derelict tenants failed.
Instead, tenants will get 30 days notice to cure any violations and either pay or contest the late fees, to be eligible to stay after the city revises its leases -- and likely increases rents -- in March.
"My clients can live with that," said Eric Karl, attorney for seven tenants who were told by Seay -- then acting airport manager -- in December to vacate the premises.
Seay later rescinded the order.
The council also instructed Painter, who has assumed the title of airport manager, to establish new procedures for payment of airport rent and park fees.
McVay urged appointment of a volunteer airport manager by Painter, who said he hasn't done much at the airstrip due to other job demands and because Seay hasn't turned over the files. Seay said only the council can make that appointment.
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