Commissioner upset with county's waiver for airline
By Suzy Valentine
A decision Tuesday to allow an airline to pass on its cargo-handling responsibilities drew fire from a Miami-Dade commissioner who recalled the carrier's previous performance.
The commission waived a non-assignment clause in a lease between Iberia Lineas Aereas de España and Miami International Airport so the airline can transfer its contract to Globeground North America. Emotions ran high because the county commission made concessions for the Spanish national carrier in the wake of 9/11 to expedite luggage handling, after which the airline reduced services at the airport.
"We had a lot of issues in this community working through the hindrance we had with the luggage being held up, and we went to Washington, DC, and lobbied very hard, and that was done for Iberia," said Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz. "After we went through the hardship with Iberia and we did everything that we had to do, the airline left us not in a very good position."
He said he didn't want a repeat performance.
"I just want to make sure that whatever we do that it isn't in vain and that it's not another corporation setting up and then leaving us holding the bag."
The county's aviation chief said the concession is necessary. "The whole airline industry is a tough business to be in these days," said Aviation Director Jose Abreu. "It fluctuates up and down. What Iberia did do for us is it found Globeground. The airline wanted to walk away, but we said it couldn't unless it found a replacement."
Memories of a prior disappointment remained, said Mr. Diaz.
"It was one of those things that took quite a long time," he said, "and it broke my heart after all the work that we did that the airline just thought, 'Let's get out of here.' The airline has left a very bad taste in my mouth."
The lease relates to about 25,200 square feet of cargo warehouse space and 7,500 square feet of office space valued at $459,764.68 per year.
The commission took four other actions Tuesday relating to airport business:
Retroactively approved lease agreements with the General Services Administration for premises in the customs clearance center and authorized County Manager George Burgess to execute them.
Waived competitive bidding for car-rental services and authorized Mr. Burgess to extend agreements month by month until a new car-rental operations site is up and running.
Subordinated liens on the personal property of Aerothrust Corp., an airport tenant, so that PNC Bank and National Association liens rank higher in priority.
Approved nine change-orders for North Terminal development, stipulating they are not intended to "change either the ... authorized budget amount of $1.9 billion or the budget for any of the individual projects."
The commission deferred approval of two contracts to operate restaurants at the airport's North and South terminals until its Feb. 7 meeting.