Cape council gives deadline to plane maker

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Renaissance Aircraft will have until Nov. 1 to make bond and lease payments totaling more than $61,000 or face eviction from a city-owned hangar at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

The city council set that deadline in a closed-door meeting late Monday night after the financially troubled company failed to make all the payments that city officials said were due last Friday.

"The council feels this is an act of good faith," Mayor Jay Knudtson said Tuesday. "We feel we should exhaust all efforts to allow him to be successful."

Knudston said Renaissance president John Dearden has indicated he expects to secure additional capital within the next two weeks.

The mayor said the council doesn't want to be stuck with an empty hangar. The city owns both the hangar and the land on which it sits.

"At this point, we don't have anybody in the wings to take over," Knudston said.

Dearden paid only $4,585 of the nearly $65,000 that Cape Girardeau officials said Renaissance owed the city and United Missouri Bank by last Friday to avoid defaulting on its lease and bond-issue agreement.

But city attorney Eric Cunningham said Tuesday that the latest calculation puts the total amount owed, including November payments, at $61,210.17.

"The city wants to continue to work with Renaissance and give it the time it needs to obtain the necessary financing," city officials said in a prepared statement released by Cunningham late Tuesday afternoon.

"We still want them to be able to manufacture and sell their aircraft, however due to the time constraints set out in the bond documents we cannot allow the situation to continue for long."

Eric Rowe, Dearden's attorney in Washington, D.C., said he had yet to review the city's statement or the amount that city officials say is owed.

Rowe said Tuesday he and his client would look at all the financial alternatives.

The city sold $2.6 million in bonds to construct a hangar for Renaissance and pay for the extension of water and sewer lines to serve the business.

As part of the conditions of the bond issue, the hangar has to be used for aviation manufacturing, city officials said.

"The council doesn't have anything to lose by granting him this 30 days," Knudtson said.

But the mayor said he doesn't expect the council to let Renaissance Aircraft get by with less-than-required payments beyond Nov. 1.

"I don't foresee the council limping along with $4,500-a-month payments," he said.

Renaissance Aircraft relocated from Eastman, Ga., to Cape Girardeau in 2001 with promises of manufacturing hundreds of two-seater propeller planes a year and creating at least 200 new jobs.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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