Lawsuit Emails Say County Worked Out Deal With Airport, Huron Aviation Says | News, Sports, Jobs

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz The terminal at Alpena County Regional Airport is seen Thursday.

ALPENA – Emails and text messages filed in the 26th District Court as evidence in a lawsuit against Alpena County and Alpena County Regional Airport show an effort to recruit a fuel supplier and another contractor to potentially replace current fuel supplier Huron Aviation Services.

Huron Aviation sued the county, seeking at least $25,000 and claiming that airport staff and the county attempted to sever Huron Aviation’s business relationship with SkyWest Airlines and take control of a fuel farm in which Huron Aviation claims to have invested in building.

In a court filing, the county denied all allegations against him. County officials declined to comment for The News.

Huron Aviation has provided fuel services at the airport since the county amended its contract with the company in 2019. The service agreement states that Huron Aviation must have a contract to sell fuel to SkyWest or any other supplier of air services at Alpena airport. If Huron Aviation fails to reach an agreement, the county may terminate its contract with Huron Aviation.

Huron Aviation claims in its court filing that Airport Manager Steve Smigelski and Deputy Manager Ed Higgins attempted to sabotage Huron Aviation’s relationship with SkyWest by requesting service quotes from fuel supplier AvFuel and Alpena Ground Services, in hoping to obtain a lower fuel rate from Huron Aviation and pitching to the airline in the hope that it would go out of business.

Higgins is also employed by Alpena Ground Services.

Had SkyWest severed ties with Huron Aviation, then Huron Aviation would have severed its contract with the county and opened the door for the county to own the fuel farm and hire another company to manage it.

An email dated April 7, 2021 and included in Huron Aviation’s court filing shows Smigelski asking an unspecified service provider who already provides service at the airport if they would be “willing to offer extended services” to the airport. Alpena Ground Services contracts with the county for certain works, such as snow removal.

In a separate email on April 14, Smigelski reached out to Mike Kormos, the Avfuel Corp. district manager, seeking comment on using the company to supply fuel and working with a separate company that would sell gas at the airport. In the email, Smigelski told Kormos he had spoken with Randy Bricker, the president of Alpena Ground Services, who said he was excited about expanding services at the airport. to include refueling duties and amend its contract with the county to include the addition. responsibility.

As an agreement appeared to be reached between the airport, Avfuel and Alpena Ground Services, Smigelski learned that SkyWest had agreed to continue to use Huron Aviation for its fuel, which forced any potential agreement to replace Huron Aviation to be put on hold. back burner. .

In Smigeski’s list of email recipients, it includes several county commissioners who served on the county’s airport committee at the time. In several emails, Smigelski notes that the county is considering using the exclusive rights policy at federally mandated airports established by the Federal Aviation Administration, which allows airport owners who receive federal grants to terminate contracts and to take control of the services if they wish.

Alpena Airport receives federal funding because it is considered a rural airport critical to air service.

On Thursday, the county did not choose to implement the escape clause.

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