A troubling Airport Authority pattern?

A troubling Airport Authority pattern?

We’re starting to see a pattern here. And it’s not at all becoming for the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

You’ll recall that the authority running the show at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) finds itself in court attempting to defend the abrogation of a contract with Fraport Pittsburgh, the operator of the shopping mall inside the Findlay Township facility.

In essence, the authority is claiming all manner of contract nonfeasance on Fraport’s part, including, allegedly, security breaches. Fraport disputes the claim.

But one of Fraport’s counter-allegations has been that in the run-up to the Airport Authority attempting to physically boot Fraport from airport premises (with the gendarmes in tow, no less), the authority suddenly began making claims of numerous problems with Fraport’s operational execution, so to speak.

Now comes Merrill Stabile, who heads the Grant Oliver Corporation, which for the past 70 years has run the parking operations at two iterations of Pittsburgh International.

After the Airport Authority last week voted to, effective Oct. 1, replace Grant Oliver with LAZ Parking, a national outfit, Stabile had a familiar plaint against the authority.

Not only did Stabile claim to the Post-Gazette that the bidding process lacked objectivity, he also alleges that (per the P-G story):

“In the last few months, the authority, he said, had started raising complaints about the parking operation.

“In my opinion, it was a sham. They asked us to cut our maintenance budget and then complained that the lot wasn’t well maintained. That was the kind of stuff we were going through with them.”

Sound familiar? Sure does. It’s the kind of modus operandi the Airport Authority is alleged to have employed against Fraport.

The phrases “poor form” and “bush league” come to mind. And it forces us (and others) to question how honest a public policy broker this public authority is and whether such behavior is its standard operating procedure.

That said, the Airport Authority’s rejection of Grant Oliver – which the authority defends — to continue running its parking operations is a blow to the local economy. A large bolus of money that long has flowed to a venerated Pittsburgh institution instead will now flow to Hartford, Conn., where LAZ Parking is based.

The move is right up there with the Airport Authority subsidizing British Airways. As Allegheny Institute President-emeritus Jake Haulk often reminds, that deal, on net, exports money out of the local economy instead of importing it.

Is it the Airport Authority’s intention to make PIT some kind of way station to outsiders’ profits? And to what end?


Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).