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Airport broke contracts, suit says

Wed., May 9, 2007

The parent company of Spokane Airways, RMA, Inc., has filed suit against the Spokane International Airport and its seven-member board of directors.

The lawsuit, filed in Spokane County Superior Court, accuses the airport of breaking contracts to replace six buildings the privately owned company had occupied for more than 20 years. Those structures must be demolished to clear sight lines for a new air traffic control tower set to open in August.

John Chastek, vice president of operations for Spokane Airways, has said the airport is under contractual obligations to build new facilities or relocate the general aviation company into the same size quarters it had until March, when it was forced to move.

An attorney for the airport said the lawsuit is without basis and that airport officials have gone out of their way to ease Spokane Airway’s long-anticipated relocation.

Kevin Roberts, an attorney for the airport, said the sort of new construction that’s being asked for would cost the airport between $10 million and $15 million.

Nothing in the leases provides for taxpayer-subsidized new construction, Roberts said. “They’re trying to get something not required under Washington law.”

In March, Spokane Airways moved into smaller quarters owned by the airport at the south end of the airfield. The company services private, charter and some commercial aircraft and has about 100 employees.

In its complaint, the company said the airport leases promise that “relocation or substitution of other premises … be at the expense of the (Airport) Board.”

Roberts said the airport legally terminated those leases with the general aviation services provider.

Bill Symmes Sr., the attorney for Spokane Airways, declined to comment on the case because it will be the subject of a hearing on Friday, during which a trial date could be set.

Roberts said his firm will try to avert that by asking the court in upcoming days to dismiss the suit. A ruling on that matter would take up to 45 days from the time it’s filed, he said.


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