Commander Premier doesn't make bond payment to stop eviction

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

BENTON, Mo. -- Commander Premier Aircraft Corp. failed to pay its $140,000 by close of business Tuesday and will likely be evicted from city-owned property at the airport today, officials say.

The eviction would come almost four years after the city received the recently bankrupted aircraft company's last rent payment. The company last paid rent in December 2007 and owes the city $827,000 in back payments.

"They've been a no show for four years," Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger said. "We just want to move ahead and get control of our building."

The Scott County Sheriff's Department will evict the company as soon as it gets an order from Judge Scott T. Horman, said Sheriff Rick Walter.

City officials have been fighting for months to get Commander to vacate a 52,000-square-foot hangar because the company hadn't made lease payments since 2007. In February, the city gave Commander 60 days to make back payments. When that didn't happen, the city terminated the lease May 16 and demanded that the property be vacated 30 days later.

On the 31st day, Commander began bankruptcy proceedings, which put a halt to the eviction process. But a Texas judge ruled the eviction could proceed in Cape Girardeau's case because it had started the process before the bankruptcy filing.

City Manager Scott Meyer said he'll only know Commander's eviction is official when its employees and belongings are out of the building. The Scott County Circuit Clerk's office accepts faxes until 5 p.m. and won't get those after-hours faxes until the next morning, he said.

However, the Scott County circuit clerk's office said the payment would need to be in before the offices in Scott County closed.

As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday -- when the office closes for business -- the bond had not been received.

"They've waited until the last minute so many times," Meyer said. "We'll have to wait and see."

In September, Horman gave Cape Girardeau the go-ahead to evict Commander on Oct. 6 after the company did not appear in court. The company filed a motion to set aside the city's default judgment, and Horman ordered that Commander had to come up with $140,000 by Tuesday to avoid eviction.

The company's equipment is still at the Commander hangar, but Commander owes at least $3.4 million to its creditors, according to court records, and it is unclear whether the city will ever recoup its losses. The equipment, as part of bankruptcy, could be sold to pay off creditors, but city attorney Eric Cunningham said he didn't know where the company's priority for repayment would fall.

In its motion to stop the eviction process, Commander said that if it is forcibly removed from the hangar, the value of the corporation would be diminished by at least $3 million. Commander maintains Federal Aviation Administration parts manufacturer approval and if the company's possession of the facility is interrupted, that status is in danger, according to the application.

The company also has an FAA-approved Quality Assurance program, which covers all parts, products and materials used in the production of all models of Commander's aircraft. In order to keep that program, Commander must maintain "constant, continuous possession and control of their facility," the document says.

Without those FAA designations, Commander's inventory cannot be sold without part-by-part certification by an FAA representative.

With eviction likely Wednesday, Rediger said he is excited for the building's potential once Commander is out of it.

"We're anxious to empty the building and market it for the economic good of the city," he said.

psullivan@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Cape Girardeau, MO

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