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Tue, May 18, 2010

Winter Haven Airport In Florida Seeks New Director

FAA Says City Has Two Outstanding Issues From A 2008 Grant Audit

Winter Haven Airport (KGIF) is conducting a search for a new director following the resignation last month of Cheryl Connor.

At the time, Connor said Airport Commissioner Jamie Beckett was interfering with her to the degree that she was unable to do her job, and making it very difficult to comply with grant assurance requirements from the FAA and Florida DOT.

The dispute stemmed from two items which remain from a 2008 audit that the FAA says need correction: lease issues and the non-aeronautical use of aeronautical areas. The Lakeland Ledger reports that Beckett said he has not seen the grant assurance documents, and had not tried to interfere with Connor's compliance with the requirements of the grants. Beckett said his problem was with the way the city managed the airport, specifically in how they dealt with FBO operator Richard Parish. Beckett said the only service Parish provides is fuel, and the price is too high. "We're charging Ritz Carlton prices for Motel 6 services," he said.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said if the grant audit issues are not dealt with, it could jeopardize future grants.

The 2008 audit found some safety issues like vehicular traffic crossing airport property in a grassy area between a seaplane base and the airport's east side. It also found that personal vehicles were being operated on airport property without radios for monitoring airport frequencies. While those issues have been corrected, there is still a problem with some lease agreements. Some airport lease-holders have been storing non-aviation related equipment in aeronautical areas, and some adjacent property owners using airport property to access their private, non-aeronautical property, Bergen said.

City manager Dale Smith said those issues will be corrected even in the absence of an airport manager.

Connor said one of the reasons she left the job was because she felt like Beckett was micro-managing her position in violation of the city charter, though neither Smith nor a South Florida lawyer who reviewed Connor's evidence said they believed a violation had taken place.



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