It is an absolute shame that folks can not sit down and discuss public issues and come to a resolution. It speaks volumes about today’s society.
The very idea that a local pilot, Brien Hubbard, was evicted from the airport just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Some would argue that he brought it on himself because he filed a complaint about fuel filters and issues at the local airport.
The report was filed with the Federal Aviation Administration, FAA. The complaint was filed by Hubbard and Kenneth Assand. Assand had been a consultant with the Magee Airport. Mayor Berry made some disparaging remarks when Assand left from his consulting agreement.
If the complaint had stopped there, it probably wouldn’t have amounted to much. Instead it got personal with references to nepotism about Alderman Lane Steele and the hiring of the airport manager, Ashley Steele, who is married to Lane’s nephew, Shane. When the issue first surfaced the newspaper contacted the State Ethics Commission. They indicated that because she was three times removed from Alderman Steele her hiring was not considered nepotism. However, Shane is only twice removed and recently had to take on the airport responsibilities for his wife. The board approved his doing so.
Hubbard’s actual complaint had to do with bad fuel that was diagnosed in an Atlanta airport. According to Hubbard, the contaminated fuel came from the Magee Airport, where regular filter replacement had not been done. There were also references to the airport manager not being qualified to perform the duties required to handle fueling.
Following the last meeting of the board on Tuesday, May 3, Ashley Steele texted Hubbard, telling him he was evicted and had until early June to remove all of his belongings from the Magee Airport. Hubbard responded that he did not have a lease with the Magee Airport and that he housed his helicopter in Hattiesburg. He then criticized the way business is conducted at the Magee Airport.
On the surface it would appear things ended there, but Hubbard expressed his interest in fighting the city in court over the issue. Additionally, no one has considered Hubbard’s relationship with Advanced Healthcare Management. His father and partner own and operate a very successful business headquartered in Magee. No one has indicated a particular problem, but you can only imagine what could happen.
You also have to wonder what benefit the city receives from the airport. The majority of funding has come from grants from the FAA. If those were to dry up the city might then be footing the bill. It is actually a great benefit for economic development, but it really needs to be larger.
When you look at the people the airport serves, it is a very limited number. But if we keep it, we need to strive to work together to make it a viable facility rather than working against each other.