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Bay County airport reaction to airport wars

By: Mark Vaughn, WJHG-TV
By: Mark Vaughn, WJHG-TV

Tuesday nights Okaloosa County Commission meeting could spark a prolonged feud between the two airports. But Bay County Airport Chairman Joe Tannehill Sr. says the Bay County Airport authority had no part in the allegations.

Tannehill says, “There certainly haven’t been any aspersions cast from our standpoint or anybody in the Airport Authority about anything that they do.”

He believes competition for passengers and attracting a low-cost air carrier are at the heart of this dispute.

"It might be because the county commission has passed the 5th cent yesterday which is going to give the airport some help. It's probably because we're in business and if we do our job right we'll probably take some passengers."

Northwest Florida Regional Airport Director Greg Donovon claimed St. Joe Company Senior Vice President Jerry Ray is one of those people spreading false stories about Northwest Regional's closure.

Ray did not return our call.

Donovon also accused Bay County attorneys William Harrison, and Liza Walters of spreading rumors.

Walters, who is chairperson of the bay county economic development alliance, did not return our calls.

But Harrison did.

Local Attorney William Harrison says, “I think that the operators are concerned about the current study of Eglin The Gulf Regional Airspace Strategic initiative which will redesign the airspace over the panhandle The Fort Walton Beach airport operators are concerned that their airport is going to be redesigned out of existence.”

Harrison also said that the government can terminate the airport's 30 year lease with thirty days notice.

Former Panama City Beach Mayor Lee Sullivan also spoke to us.

Sullivan was quoted in Tuesday’s meeting as saying Northwest Florida Regional’s relationship with Eglin Air Force Base must come to an end at some point.

Sullivan says he doesn't have an interest in arguing.

News View Host Lee Sullivan says, "First thought is get a life. Second thought is much to do about nothing what I said on the show is that they've got some issues and they do. They don't own the runway, and they've got the F-35's coming in and there's an issue about airspace just like there is over here. I know more wish the people in Fort Walton have to drive over here to catch a plane than I wish the people over here to have to drive to Fort Walton.”

Tannehill says he has no interest in a fight between airports.

"Get a life. There's too much to do than to get into something as silly as this is. As far as I know they're not throwing stones at us and we're sure not at them."


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