By 01/31/2008 00:00:00
and GLEN JACKSON
The Ellis County Press
MIDLOTHIAN - Waxahachie and Midlothian share Mid-Way Regional Airport, a membership which includes dozens of private and commercial pilots each with their own hangars.
However, the airport has come under heavy scrutiny due to alleged illegal contracts being awarded to the Nay Company in constructing several of those hangars.
A local contractor has sued over the illegality of the contracts, which were approved by both cities and the airport management board, which consists of appointees from both Ellis County cities.
A seven-member board of directors oversees airport manager Cam Fearis, who has been at the center of the controversy involving a 2002 contract awarded to the Nay Company that ended with uncompleted work, according to legal documents filed in Ellis County Court at Law No. 1 two years ago.
According to lawyers for contractor Ken Halverson, who filed the suit, a second hangar contract could not legally be awarded with the 2002 work being incomplete.
The lawsuit pins the process by which Waxahachie and Midlothian approved the contract in question - a request for bid and a request for qualification are the two mechanisms cities can use to award contracts.
Halverson, one of five contractors who lined up to construct the hangars, said he finished last due to his criticisms of the way Waxahachie conducts its contracting work.
Midlothian officials are on a YouTube video admitting to accepting a contract they 'normally don't approve.'
Since the video and a second Halverson lawsuit (for dangerous conditions at the airport), the Waxahachie official at the center of scuttling the contracts through, finance director Carl Wessels, stepped down in December.
Fearis said the airport has had few problems in the past with hangars that were built by the Nay Company.
Ferris said he urged the airport board to let the Nay Company build these hangers.
Paula Baucum, president of the airport board and a former Midlothian councilwoman, said she has been contacted by disgruntled pilots and clients of the airport about the conditions of the Nay hangars. Some of the problems brought up have been drainage in the hangers, (which are built to remain dry) poor workmanship and some safety issues.
Halverson said when heavy storms are prevalent in the area, hangar drains are filled with soot and mud. The piping is also not large enough to handle the increased water, making for a potential liability due to the placement of some electrical wires.
'Someone's going to get electrocuted, but nobody will be able to say that they weren't warned about this,' Halverson said.
Halverson said Fearis' predecessor, Juan Gomez, knew of the faulty hangers and informed the airport board at a regular meeting. He was later killed in a plane crash in south Texas.
When Fearis was first contacted by this newspaper, he claimed to not know which hangers were being discussed.
The Ellis County Press elaborated on the Nay hangars and Fearis said of the contractor, 'Every job done by the Nay Company has been satisfactory.'
Fearis refused to answer any further questions relating to this story.
Judge Greg Wilhelm, now the jurist over Court at Law No. 1, held a hearing between Halverson's attorney and the airport attorneys, Don Stout of the City of Midlothian and Jim Chapman with the City of Waxahachie. The hearing was in September and Wilhelm said it would result in an administrative ruling. Nearly six months later, a ruling still has not been issued.
Reports are that Wilhelm, who drew no primary opponent in the March 4 or general election, wants the issue settled out of court.
When reached by phone, Wilhelm's office said he would not comment.
Halverson said the public will have to pay more taxes for the repairs at the airport unless Fearis uses the maintenance bond the airport has with the Nay Company. This surety - or performance - bond states the Nay Company is to fix any problems that arise from hangars and other projects they construct.
Meanwhile, Halverson said he is not playing a sore loser role due to him finishing last in the bid contest. Rather, he said he's taking a stand for taxpayers whose money will ultimately be spent to repair six-figure damages as a result of what he calls 'shoddy workmanship.'
Fearis, Halverson said, should be fired and the cities should be responsible for Halverson's legal bills. So far, Halverson said, both cities don't want to take the offer.
'I'll keep fighting them until things are done right,' Halverson said. 'I'm not just going away.'