Council Delays Airport Companies’ Waiver Request

SALISBURY – Citing the need for more information, officials in Wicomico County this week voted to postpone two resolutions temporarily waiving concession fees for three car rental companies and one parking vendor at the Salisbury airport.

On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council voted unanimously to postpone two resolutions that would temporarily modify concession agreements with four companies at the Salisbury Regional Airport. With a decrease in business brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Assistant Airport Manager Tony Rudy said the companies were seeking financial relief from the county.

“Beginning in late March, it became apparent that passenger numbers at the airport have dropped off significantly,” he said. “I started receiving correspondence from the various rental car companies concerned about their business there, and they did ask for relief, which included waiving of their minimum annual guarantee that aligns with their current agreement with the airport.”

The first resolution brought before the council this week included the modification of concession agreements between the county and the three rental car companies at the airport – Enterprise Leasing Company of Baltimore, Avis Rent A Car System and The Hertz Corporation – which would waive minimum guaranteed annual payments to the county until deplaning passenger numbers reached 75% of the normal rate.

“On a monthly basis, between three rental car companies, we’re talking in the neighborhood of $12,916 per month,” Rudy said. “They would still be required to pay a percentage of their gross revenues.”

Rudy added that the request was not a departure from the original agreement.

“The way it is written, if passenger numbers drop off more than 25% then this kicks in, the minimum annual guarantee is waived, and they pay strictly percentage of gross revenue,” he said. “Really, we aren’t straying from what was written in the original agreement, and this is pretty typical nationwide at airports.”

Councilman John Cannon, however, said he would rather provide financial relief to local businesses struggling during the global health crisis.

“I think if Wicomico County were going to be giving any type of relief, I would rather take those funds and have the council search out local businesses that might need relief as opposed to a national or international company to be quite honest with you …,” he said. “This is taxpayer money we are looking at.”

Rudy pointed out that each of the car companies was seeking relief from airports nationwide. Cannon, however, questioned if the companies had received funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“Not to my knowledge, no,” Rudy replied. “The airlines are receiving some relief, but I have not heard of rental car companies.”

Councilwoman Nicole Acle and Councilman Ernie Davis questioned if the car companies were franchises owned by local individuals.

“That I’m not sure of,” Rudy replied.

After further discussion, Cannon made a motion to postpone the resolution to the next council meeting in May. He said he wanted more information pertaining to the car companies and their request.

“I would like to know information that specifically shows they aren’t receiving PPP (Paycheck Protection Program funding), that they are not receiving any other funding through the CARES Act …,” he said. “I just want to make sure that everything else had been looked at.”

Cannon’s motion passed unanimously.

The council on Tuesday also postponed a second resolution temporarily modifying a concession agreement between the county and Republic Parking System, LLC and waiving concession fees until the county’s state of emergency order is lifted.

“The minimum annual guarantee for Republic Parking is $22,916 per month …,” Rudy said. “They have asked for three months. We will grant that as long as Wicomico County is under a state of emergency.”

The council, again, requested more information.

“The same questions should be asked,” Councilman Ernie Davis said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.