City to advertise for new airport operator

Staff Writer

Starkville aldermen's Feb. 2 decision to end Kenneth Aasand's contract as fixed base operator at George M. Bryan Airport reamins publicly unexplained.

The board will now advertise for a new fixed base operator at the airport. An operator provides basic services at the airport like fueling, hangaring, parking, maintenance and flight instruction.

No reason for the lease termination was given before or after the vote. Grassroots Aviation owner Kenneth Aasand said neither the aldermen nor the airport board notified him of the termination recommendation.

"I did not know I was on the agenda to discuss terminating my contract until this afternoon," Aasand said at the Feb. 2 meeting.

On Feb. 3, Aasand told Starkville Daily News neither the airport board nor the aldermen had given him an explanation as to why his lease had been terminated. Grassroots Aviation inherited the almost four year contract from Ratliff Air Services in March 2015, according to the Feb. 2 agenda.

The airport board and aldermen could not comment on the matter as of Feb. 5, according to Mayor Parker Wiseman and Airport Board President Andy Fultz.

Janitorial Services

At the Feb. 2 meeting, Aasand conceded he did not provide janitorial services for the facility's restrooms, and still flew the state flag on the property. The janitorial services, Aasand claimed, were not part of his lease agreement with the city.

In section six of the fixed base operator minimum standards document established in 1985, the standards state the operator will provide, "conveniently located (air-conditioned) lounge or waiting rooms for passengers, and airplane crews of itinerant aircraft, together with sanitary restrooms and public telephones."

Condition three of Grassroots Aviation's lease with the city shows the operator will provide services as stated by the minimum standards document.

One of the final conditions in the lease agreement shows that if any of the terms and conditions aren't met, the city or operator would have the "absolute right" to terminate the lease upon being given a 90 day notice.

State Flag

Aasand speculated the cause for termination could be over him flying the state flag at the airport.

In July 2015 the board voted in favor of removing the state flag from all city-owned properties.

Following the board ruling, Aasand reached out to officials for a written explanation of the resolution in August 2015, according to email correspondence with city staff.

A city staff member from the Code Enforcement Division replied to Aasand in August, but no explanation was given, according to a follow-up email by Aasand from Sept. 7.

In October, an airport board member told Aasand to remove a small state flag from a golf cart used on the facility, Aasand said. Later in October, board members followed up with him to see if he had received a written explanation from the city relating to the flag removal resolution.

From October to January, Aasand had no correspondence with city staff, he said.

Aasand met with Wiseman Jan. 26 to get an explanation of the resolution and Aasand was given a notice explaining the resolution by City Attorney Chris Latimer on Feb. 4, two days after the termination of the lease.

Aasand said he would take the flag down Friday.