Some Victoria airport tenants paying late rent

Brian Cuaron

June 24, 2011 at 1:24 a.m.
Updated June 25, 2011 at 1:25 a.m.

Some Victoria Regional Airport tenants haven't been keeping up with their monthly rental fees.

The airport handed a 30-day eviction notice on June 17 to one offender, the Landing Strip Cafe. It was the only restaurant in its terminal.

Jason Milewski, the airport's managing director, called the situation unfortunate. But he added that the airport must be run like a business.

"Otherwise, taxpayers will continue to subsidize this place forever," Milewski said.

The airport receives funding from Victoria County. Last year it got a $108,000 county loan to balance its budget, Milewski said.

Yet the goal is to one day become self-sustaining, he added.

Cafe owner, Arnold Martinez, had asked the airport's commission not to put a $500 security deposit around his neck during the commission's June 16 meeting.

"I went in there to try to fight for our little restaurant," he said.

Martinez had a history of paying his monthly $250 rental fee anywhere from three days to 81 days past due, according to a table provided by Milewski. He has yet to pay the fees for April, May or June.

Yet Martinez said that he was only late a couple of months in 2010, and that he always paid within two weeks. He showed the Advocate a receipt saying he paid his March 2011 rent on time, but couldn't produce the other receipts.

Martinez agreed that he was late in paying the rent for this year's other months.

Milewski said he wishes Martinez the best and agreed that he did provide a good service.

But Milewski said it wasn't fair for airport tenants to be allowed to habitually make late payments.

"They're basically getting a short-term loan from the taxpayers," Milewski said.

These short-term loans are also one reason why the county must loan the airport money from time to time, Milewski said.

Outreach Word Academy, a charter school, has also repeatedly paid its rent late, according to the table. At $3,000 per month, the academy hasn't paid its bills on time since at least January 2010.

The table showed the academy paying one month's rent 65 days late. The closest it came to paying its rent on time was for the February 2010 rent, which it paid 24 days late.

The Advocate was unable to contact Elaine Philips, the academy's director of business, after calling her office, visiting the office in the Crossroads Plaza, as well as the school itself, located on the airport's property.

Sparkman Industries has also not paid its rental fees on time since at least January 2010, the table showed.

It's monthly rental fee was listed at $1,507.75.

Sparkman Industries paid its rent for June 2010 late by 73 days, the table showed. It came closest to paying on time in August 2010 when it paid the rent 12 days late.

Trey Sparkman, general manager of the company, said that the company started paying its rent late due to the economic fallout of 2008. He said the company's revenues dropped by more than 50 percent the last two years.

"We've paid a lot of rent out here," said Sparkman, adding that the company has been at the airport since the early 1990s.

"When hard times hit, we had to pay some of our bills slower than others," he said.

Sparkman added that the company is "attempting to pay our bills back on time again."

The rental fees for the storage of two planes have also been coming in late.

At $90 per month, the Warren Newman Estate has paid its monthly bill on time just twice since January 2010.

At $220 per month, Walter Stubbs fell behind for the rent of March through June this year, but has now paid it off.

He said that he now has his rental fee automatically taken out from an account of his.

Regarding the Landing Strip Cafe, Milewski said that nobody was the bad guy.

"It's public money and we have to be responsible with it," Milewski said.



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