Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ray Sansom's Hanger Project

The St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald report on Florida House speaker Ray Sansom's budgeted tax to land owned by Jay Odom. In 2007, Odom attempted to build hurricane proof metal hangers at Destin Aiport. Destin's city manager Kelvin Espada never visited the facility to talk with Odom about his plan to build a hurricane shelter and training facility. Interestingly, Sansom Northwest Florida College bio mentions his negotiating for emergency training facilities. The Destin city council voted to allow Odom to request the funds.

According to NWF State College president Bob Richburg, Sansom's new position as vice president will have expanded responsibilities that will include oversight of the college foundation and also the development of agreements with local governments for training related to the college's new Community Services Complex and other endeavors.

The city of Destin wasn't interested in Odom's project. Insurance companies didn't want to sell coverage to the hanger deck. Odom managed to get $6 million in state funding. Sansom was the Senate budget chairman in 2007. Sansom denies there was quid pro quo.

"It doesn't benefit him at all," Sansom said in an interview at the Capitol. "He wasn't involved with me. I worked with the college."

However, the St. Petersburg Times reports Sansom, Odom and Northwest State College president Bob Richburg discussed the project in emails. What makes the deal more suspicious is Sansom never put in a Community Budget Issue Request. That means the budget request can't be found online. Odom told The Times the hanger would not be used for his planes. Airport operation manager Bill Blackford said the hanger would be used for Odom's planes. Odom is Blackburn's employer. That makes Blackburn a very reliable source. The hanger is now an official project of the college.

Richburg defended the money, calling the project a ``wonderful opportunity.''

Odom leases a half acre to the school for $1 dollar and receives a remodeled hanger deck. Richburg's college got $750,000 in start up funds and a cheap land lease. Sansom received $110,000-a-year job from Richburg and campaign contribions from Odom. It was a wonderful opportunity. Unless, you are a taxpayer.

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At December 09, 2008 7:26 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sansom will be earning $25,000 more than the person who retired. What galls me is the way the college President described how the increase would be covered - through the books store and food service. In my mind, it means that it is coming out of student pockets and the money doesn't come back in improved services to the students. I think that stinks.


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