The Walnut Ridge Airport Commission, and by extension the city of Walnut Ridge, filed a lawsuit against the Scott Fetzer Company and Stone Partners LLC. The lawsuit claims that the two companies have breached their contract with the airport, clouded the title, and have trespassed.
The companies have a facility that operates on a 17-acre swath in the Walnut Ridge Industrial Park, which is managed by the airport. Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp sent Talk Business & Politics a letter outlining public officials’ concerns.
Attempts to reach Scott Fetzer Company for comment were unsuccessful.
City officials are concerned that the breach of contract could cause the Federal Aviation Administration to stop providing grants and other funds for the airport, Snapp said. The airport, built during the 1940s to train pilots during World War II, is the second largest airport in Arkansas in terms of runway footage. Thousands of acres of adjoining land were included when the airport was deeded to the city after the war.
“The city’s relationship with federal agencies is of vital importance for the future of the city of Walnut Ridge,” he said. “If the city lost that funding mechanism, we would reverse decades of advancements.”
The lawsuit states that SFC first entered into a lease agreement with the Airport in 1971. Government backed, Series B bonds were approved for the project at the time to help build the plant and outfit it with equipment. It was approved as a non-aeronautical, light manufacturing facility.
The agreement specifically states that all properties, the building, and equipment cannot be sold without approval of the FAA. It further states that all property and assets have to be sold at fair market value.
In 2019, Scott Fetzer Company started the process of selling the business to Stone Partners, based in Jonesboro. Fetzer reportedly sold the business and assets for $600,000, according to the lawsuit. The deal was consummated without notice to the airport or city on May 12, 2020.
The lawsuit contends that Stone Partners were made aware in writing that Scott Fetzer Company didn’t actually own the equipment or property prior to the lawsuit being filed.
The Walnut Ridge Airport is governed by a commission. Commissioners are appointed by the city.