The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
A partner in a West Toledo-based financial investment advisory firm - whose father was once a Republican Sylvania Township trustee - has tried for at least seven months to get the Bell administration interested in signing over complete control of the money-losing Toledo Express Airport while chiefly cutting Toledo City Council out of the process, The Blade has learned.
Dock David Treece, a partner in Treece Investments, via a May 6 email told Paul Syring, Mayor Mike Bell's top economic development official, that he was willing to create a “new, privately-owned entity that will assume management of Toledo Express."
The city-owned airport, which is projected to lose about $674,000 this year, is operated and subsidized by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
“The property will still be owned by the city but if we can put together an agreement there will be certain rights that we need in order to turn the airport around,” Mr. Treece wrote in the May email.
The entity would need “complete operational control of all public facilities” and the right to “sell, lease, transfer, assign, or hypothecate” property at or near the airport.
“Obviously, transactions would occur at or near fair market value (we're not going to fire sale property), but if we have to go to city council to approve every deal, we won't be successful,” Mr. Treece said.
In exchange, Mr. Treece said he and others would commit to personally make up any shortfall from operations; guarantee continued public access to the airport for aviation, and pay the city some portion of profits.
A month before sending Mr. Syring the draft proposal, Mr. Treece emailed the city asking about “urban renewal/redevelopment” plans and indicated wanting to avoid contact with city council regarding the airport.
“We're just trying to explore as many different options as are available for working out a deal on the airport with minimal involvement from city council,” Mr. Treece wrote on April 1. “I thought I might find items of interest in urban renewal/redevelopment plans already passed by council, which may allow is to circumvent or more easily navigate various parts of the process.”
On May 13, Mr. Treece sent a more detailed, 12-point outline marked “private and confidential” to Mayor Bell.
In a separate email to Paul Toth, port authority president, Mr. Syring said selling the airport to Mr. Treece and others was not a possibility.
Mayor Bell told The Blade today that he is open to the idea of letting a private firm run the airport but he needs more details.
“I don't have the whole plan,” the mayor said. “Dock Treece and Dock Treece Jr. have been talking about ideas for the airport for probably the past two or three years and they thought if they were somehow given control, or if it was put into private hands, there was a potential it could become more profitable.”