WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday voted 7-0 to approve a five-year lease with Black Bear Aviation, a company that will repair and maintain aircraft at the city-owned Robert LaFleur Airport.
Black Bear, owned by Kevin Dauphinee, will lease space in the airport’s main hangar for a fee based on gross profit. He also will rent three office rooms in the terminal building for $3,898 for the first year.
Black Bear will join other businesses based at the airport, including Aviation Appearance Plus, an aircraft detailing service owned by Ron Jack; and Airlink LLC, a flight school and charter service owned by Klaus Thalinger.
The airport does not have a maintenance and repair service now, so city officials and airport Manager Randy Marshall said the business will be a great asset to the airport and will increase jet traffic there.
Dauphinee is based at Dexter Regional Airport but will move his operation to Waterville, he said, adding that business has been brisk.
“We started with one hangar up there and grew to three,” he said. “We’re booked right now into June.”
Mayor Karen Heck, who applauded the arrival of Black Bear, asked Dauphinee when he plans to move.
“We’re pretty much ready to move in tomorrow,” he said.
“Excellent. Good,” Heck replied.
Councilor Rosemary Winslow, D-Ward 3, said she met with Dauphinee and he knows his business.
“He’s done his homework,” she said. “Yes, he’s only been around since 2011, but it’s amazing what he’s doing.”
Winslow said Marshall, Jack and others at the airport will work together well.
“It’s a good symmetry, no question about it and it’s what we need,” she said.
Jack complemented Marshall, saying he has worked and dealt with a lot of airports, and Marshall stands out.
“Randy’s got to be the best ambassador I’ve ever seen in an airport, for the city” he said.
Heck said the airport is one of her pet projects, a lot is happening there, and it continues to grow.
“I love the fact that it’s becoming what it used to be, and I appreciate Randy’s work to make sure that happens,” she said.
In related action Tuesday, councilors voted 7-0 to approve submitting an application to reorganize Foreign Trade Zone 186, the zone around the airport, and authorize City Manager Michael Roy to complete, with help from Central Maine Growth Council, all paperwork needed to allow for expansion of the trade zone. The move would allow the trade zone to expand beyond the airport.
Darryl Sterling, executive director of the Growth Council, said the expansion will help create jobs and bring businesses more to the area from all over the world.
“It really puts us on the map,” he said. “Here’s a zone — there’s nothing like it in New England.”
Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, asked whether goods must pass through the airport for companies to be part of the zone.
“No,” Sterling said. “That’s the beauty of this thing.”
Sterling raised $28,000 to do work on the trade zone and prepare for the application, which he said will be ready to submit in about two weeks.
Companies applying to be in the zone would pay fees to both the trade zone, in Washington, D.C. and to Waterville.
“Those fees are being developed now,” Sterling said. “It’ll be $5,000 to $20,000 annually, just to be in that zone.”