For the past few weeks Daryl Hickman, as the chairman of the usually obscure Flagler County Airport Advisory Board, brought that panel out of the shadows as he leveled serious and public criticism at the airport director and even the county commission that appoints board members. He was critical of what he saw as indifference or lack of respect for the board’s advisory role.
Hickman cited differences between the director and the advisory board over the handling of noise issues or the airport’s planned new terminal as examples, though last week it became clear that Hickman was not speaking for the advisory board on those issues: the board was divided, some of its members quite supportive of Roy Sieger, the airport director.
Monday evening, Hickman resigned.
He did so publicly, before the County Commission, but not before one final sally at the director, this time citing yet another issue that Hickman felt illustrated a lack of oversight on airport matters: a $250,000 county airport purchase of 15 acres adjoining the airport, to accommodate a planned, 15,000 square-foot general aviation terminal and administrative offices.
The commission approved the purchase later in the meeting, without comment: it was part of the commission’s consent agenda, where numerous items are grouped and approved in bulk, without discussion.
Hickman said the price of the acreage went up from $220,000 to $250,000, after the seller sought a second appraisal, though there’d been an initial agreement on the $220,000 price.
“Unfortunately this expenditure of fund would likely not have come about” if the airport had chosen any one of four other locations depicted in the airport master plan, Hickman told commissioners, or if “adequate oversight had been provided prior to the airport completing the 60 to 90 percent design phase of construction, which placed the project on land we currently do not own.”
He was referring to the design of the new terminal building. That planned building was the subject of at-times tense discussions between Hickman an Sieger at last week’s meeting of the advisory board, which was also attended by County Administrator Jerry Cameron. Hickman questioned the size of the building, considering it too large, and questioned the data in the master plan on which the size is based, saying the data may be out of date. Sieger defended the approach, and two of the board members later wanted to be clear that Hickman was not speaking for them.
“Throughout this process it was brought to the attention of the airport director that we might want to put a pause on this project and reevaluate its location, cost and scope,” Hickman said. (He had support for his approach from two members of the board, which consists of five members plus an alternate. The alternate appeared to fall on the other side of the debate.)
Asked for his reaction to Hickman’s resignation or his statements to the commission, Sieger today issued this statement: “I look forward to working with the County Administrator, Mr. Cameron, to update and define the Bylaws of the Airport Advisory Board. This will enable us to provide a clear definition of the role of an Airport Advisory Board member”.
Cameron and advisory board members had discussed that matter at last week’s meeting, and Cameron intends, in consultation with board members, to rewrite the advisory board’s by-laws.
“There are many projects and operational aspects of the airport that can use the oversight of professionals,” Hickman said Monday, concluding his remarks. “This oversight might likely contribute to maximizing the resource of the airport for the county’s gain. In my opinion the airport advisory group is one such group tasked with some of this deeded oversight. Unfortunately our concerns and opinions have largely been ignored and in this case has created an expenditure of $250,000 that might likely have been avoided with better communication and collaboration. Since I am subject solely to a reactionary position on an already determined outcome, I ask that with all due respect you accept my immediate resignation from your airport advisory bard. I’ll continue to work vigorously in the best interest of the airport, its users and the citizens that surround it, albeit without the apocryphal title of adviser.”
The commission did not address Hickman’s remarks. But later in the meeting, on advice from the county attorney, it formally accepted his resignation. That makes Les Abend, the vice chairman, chairman of the panel for now, while the commission searches and appoints a replacement. Abend had been a Hickman ally.
Hickman’s name was scrubbed from the county’s advisory board web page with remarkable speed.