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Published: Thursday, 11/28/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

PRIVATIZING AIRPORTS

Treece gives some details of proposal on Web site

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Dock Treece Dock Treece
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Investment adviser Dock Treece released a Web site Wednesday containing more information about his plan for privatizing Toledo Express Airport and its smaller sister in Wood County, Toledo Executive Airport, but officials said Mr. Treece’s proposal still leaves many questions unanswered.

The site, toledoairports.com, describes the plan and identifies the partners, Mr. Treece, his wife, Cynthia Treece, and his two sons, Dock David Treece and Ben Treece.

Mr. Treece said in a live interview with WSPD-AM 1370 on Wednesday that he was holding back additional information for now — a feasibility study and business plan — apparently to maintain control over how the proposal is reported in The Blade.

“We’re going to put up the feasibility study, and we’re going to put up the business plan. But we didn’t put them all up at one time because if you do that, The Blade’s mode of operation is to go in and pick and choose what they want you to know and then publish that and then pretend nothing else exists,” Mr. Treece told host Fred LeFebvre, who agreed that was a good approach.

“We and our consultants believe that under private control Toledo Express can do far more to attract new commercial carriers, and also add alternative types of passenger service at both Toledo Express AND Toledo Executive, using little-known sections of FAA regulation previously unexplored by the Airports’ current operator,” the site asserts in one of its sections.

The Treeces, who together run Treece Investment Advisory Corp. in Sylvania Township, which claims to manage more than $40 million, say they have decades of experience in both aviation and in property management, which they say, is “far more experience in aviation than the entire board of the current operator put together.”

Mr. Treece has a license to fly a small jet and owns an aircraft-leasing company that has owned 13 aircraft.

The Treeces have quietly shopped their plan for months to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which operates the two city-owned airports, Toledo Express and Toledo Executive, and to Mayor Mike Bell.

The proposal became public shortly before the Nov. 5 election after The Blade obtained copies of emails from Mr. Treece to the Bell administration alluding to a desire to keep city council out of the loop. The group is seeking “complete operational control of all public facilities” and the right to sell and lease property at or near the airport, an early e-mailed description of the plan said.

The Web site said the Treeces had not included city council in their initial discussions because “our plan was not yet finished.”

“Nothing has been hidden from City Council (or the public) — and nothing will be hidden from them,” the site says — despite Mr. Treece’s acknowledgement in his radio interview that he was withholding the business plan and the feasibility study for later release.

Jerry Chabler, chairman of the port board’s airport committee, said the Web site still doesn’t provide detail that policymakers would need to move ahead, such as the financing and the names of participants.

“There’s nothing new here. He bases his ability to operate an airport on the fact that he’s been a longtime pilot of airplanes. It takes a heckuva lot more to run an airport. What’s his experience in operating an airport?” Mr. Chabler asked.

The Treece proposal identifies eight businesses the family owns, including an 80-acre farm in Tennessee.

Mr. Treece, 63, is a longtime pilot who owns a jet aircraft, has more than 2,000 hours of flight time, and has operated in and out of hundreds of airports, the site states.

The Treeces also say that they have consultants willing to work with them, “but [who] refuse to get involved with Toledo’s airports so long as the current operator is in control.”

The Web site says the current operator has been responsible for huge operating losses.

“Privatization, on the other hand, would relieve taxpayers of having to pay for any operating deficits. In fact, it would lead to considerable property development, which would increase property tax revenues,” according to the Treece site. It adds that if they fail, management would revert to the city with no negative impact on taxpayers.

Under the port authority, Toledo Express earned more than $14 million in profits from 2001 to 2010, but has run a deficit of about $300,000 in each of the last three years, including 2013, because of the decline of the air freight and passenger business at the airport. Port authority officials attribute the decline to large increases in the price of jet fuel. Toledo Express has two passenger airlines offering daily flights to three cities in Florida and to Chicago.

Port Authority President Paul Toth said the board was projecting a deficit in 2013 of $674,000, but had reduced that by more than half.

The Treece Web site provides numerous links to aviation services which appear to be little more than placeholders because most of them are generic Web sites and for services far removed from Toledo, such as London Airport Transport and New York Limo Car.

Last week, Mr. Toth told Mr. Treece that the agency would defer any further discussions about the future of the airport to the city of Toledo. William Carroll, chairman of the port board of directors, said the issue doesn’t involve the port authority.

“If the city wants to have somebody else operate the airport that’s their business. We didn’t see anything there [in the Treece plan] — no business plan,” Mr. Carroll said.

Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins said he had not seen the Web site and while he remains open-minded about Mr. Treece’s idea, he does not plan to engage in conversations until he receives a detailed business plan.

Mr. Collins said he studied Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to stop a plan to privatize Chicago’s Midway Airport — which would have been the country’s first major commercial airport to be placed in private hands.

“I have read the articles about it and this is not as simplistic as perhaps [the Treeces] are defining it to be,” Mr. Collins said. “The Chicago situation, realistically, couldn’t work based upon the funding scheme. ... When they do present a business plan I will be receptive to reviewing it and seeking professional opinions.”

Steve Herwat, deputy mayor under outgoing Mayor Bell, said Mr. Bell plans no action in his waning days relating to the airport and has had no recent conversation with Mr. Treece.

“The next administration is going to have to make any decision regarding the airport,” Mr. Herwat said.

The Web site didn’t offer much new for Toledo City Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson.

“It is not really saying too much more,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said after looking briefly at the Web site. “Let’s see the real plan and understand what they are advocating. It’s a public entity and private operation of public entities don’t always pan out. Let’s see more information before we say anything more.”

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.



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