The Fixed Base Operator (FBO) of Brenham Municipal Airport is suing the city over allegations of “draconian and outrageously discriminatory treatment”.
In a complaint filed on July 20e in 21st District Court Brent Nedbalek, the owner of Aviators Plus, says he was subjected to “an unscrupulous game of financial lure and change” and that the demands placed on his company in the FBO agreement with the city were “unreasonable” and “financially unsustainable”. .” Nedbalek is seeking monetary relief in excess of $1 million and other remedies allowed by state law.
Nedbalek says he has “significantly invested in the growth, expansion and brand awareness” of Brenham Airport since launching Aviators Plus in 2008, and recognized the need for a service several years ago. reliable fuel supply. Southern Flyer was operating as the FBO of the airport at the time, which Nedbalek said was struggling to maintain an adequate fuel supply, threatening its business operations. Because of this, he asked the city to be allowed to purchase and install new aviation fuel tanks, but says he was told the city would only consider his request if Aviators Plus became an FBO. at the airport.
The terms of the FBO agreement were negotiated for nearly two years before being approved by City Council in September 2019. A section of the agreement stated that if Southern Flyer were to cease FBO operations and vacate the terminal owned by the city, and Aviators Plus had not completed construction of its own FBO building, so it would take over the terminal within 30 days of Southern Flyer’s departure. Originally, Nedbalek proposed a new FBO building adjacent to the public ramp, adding in the lawsuit that it was initially encouraged by the city. However, after submitting architectural drawings, engineering plans and various study results, he claims that the city has not presented a ground lease for the FBO building to the city council, although it has been approved by the now disbanded Airport Advisory Board.
During Southern Flyer’s closure, no moves were made on a new FBO building, so Nedbalek approached the city to move into the vacant terminal. He says the city refused, instead offering a modified FBO deal that he called “unfair, arbitrary and unreasonable.” Nedbalek signed it, but the city council filed a lawsuit about it twice in early 2021, and he argues the city added new conditions before allowing Aviators Plus to lease the terminal.
The city’s demands, according to Nedbalek, included “a monthly concession rent of $750 to $2,000,” improvements to the terminal building, and improvements and the operation of a restaurant in the building. Southern Flyer’s lease was $50 per month plus improvements to lease the terminal, use city-owned aviation fuel storage tanks, and act as the city’s FBO. In November 2021, the city finally approved a lease agreement for the restaurant portion of the building with Canion Kountry Bakery, operating as Dreamliner Diner, for $500 per month and no building or space upgrade requirements. of restoration.
According to the lawsuit, Nedbalek claims the city demanded that Aviators Plus provide 24-hour fuel services despite airport traffic not warranting 24-hour staffing, and denied his request to have an on-call employee to assist with after-hours fuel services. working hours. He believes the city placed “unnecessary restrictions” on Aviators Plus operations that were not necessary for other airport tenants or businesses and forced it to operate at “financial harm.”
In late 2021, Nedbalek sent the city a Notice of Default, declaring the city’s refusal to provide the air terminal building and public ramp an event of default under the FBO agreement. Follow-up correspondence was sent in January before the FBO decided to discontinue full services, while keeping self-service refueling facilities in operation. According to Nedbalek, the city attorney offered mutual termination of the agreement, but the termination would be considered a default under Aviators Plus’ land leases with the city for its hangars and fuel yards. This, Nedbalek states, would give the city the ability to “unlawfully and unlawfully take Aviators Plus’ substantial investment in these leases.” Nedbalek refused and offered to mediate, but he says the city has been unwilling to do so so far. The city has hired an airport manager and has expressed its intention to take on FBO duties at the airport, but Nedbalek says the city’s “unprofessional and wrongful conduct” has put current operations and growth and future of the airport “in danger”.
The lawsuit alleges the city breached its contract with Aviators Plus by failing to fulfill obligations such as providing the terminal and public ramp, and by providing timely comment or approval of various FBO requests. It also claims that the city violated applicable federal aviation regulations developed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The city says it is unable to comment on the lawsuit at this time.
Aviators Plus is represented by Coats & Evans, PC, an aviation law firm based in The Woodlands. City Council will discuss hiring legal counsel in relation to the lawsuit in an executive session at its meeting on Thursday.