Hendry OKs sale of Airglades Airport

The Hendry County Board has approved the eventual sale of Airglades Airport to AIA, giving the commissioners’ official OK to a revised purchase and sale agreement under its consent agenda items on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

AIA, which stands for Airglades International Airport, is a limited-liability corporation formed by aviation industry leader Fred Ford (through his company Florida Cargo Fresh) along with partners U.S. Sugar Corp. and Hilliard Bros. (in a partnership known as SugarHill) to convert the World War II-vintage airfield near Clewiston into a major international air shipping hub.

Mr. Ford had explained to the Clewiston Chamber of Commerce back in late January that there were still a few I’s to dot and T’s to cross before he could get bulldozers on the ground, expected by the end of this year or early 2019. The Hendry commissioners last week were acting on a mostly finalized purchase agreement that was revised after comments from Federal Aviation Administration and Florida Department of Transportation reviews. It was originally submitted to them in May 2013 and is still subject to their final OKs.

Mr. Ford could not be reached for comment this week.

The agreement calls for the closing within 150 days of the date that the last agency with authority over the project approves. The deal has a sale price of $13 million; $8 million of which may be waived based upon job creation at the rate of $1 million for every 100 jobs directly and indirectly created by the new air cargo hub. There’s a list of exclusions of some parcels of land, including three former landfills and properties under commercial operation, a provision for county-financed environmental cleanup costs over $250,000 if contamination is found, and several other conditions. AIA commits to build a new, minimum 10,000-fooot runway and several other buildings costing at least $50 million within five years of closing. The county would take over if AIA became insolvent or lenders foreclosed.

In other actions, the board:

• Passed an amendment to the Background Screening Ordinance that will better capture the positions that are required for fingerprinting in accordance with background screening policies.

• Asked Planning and Community Development staff to provide Geographical Information Systems maps to give an overlay of the department’s current status of projects and future plans for development.

• Approved a contract to purchase 580 S. Cabbage Palm St. in Montura Ranch Estates. After negotiations, the owner and county staff agreed upon $11,750 rather than the $13,500 asking price, with the county paying all closing costs, except for some specified fees. Commissioner Karson Turner asked to see staff’s long-term plan for a community center, which is the eventual goal.

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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