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LoPresti gets 9-month deferral on rent at Sebastian Airport

SEBASTIAN – LoPresti Aviation will get a 9-month stay on its rent and won’t have to start repaying the back rent until then – paying an extra $1,000 for the following 30 months.

The request was approved with a vote of 3 to 1 after pointed questioning from Mayor Richard Gillmor and Sebastian resident Damien Gilliams. Councilman Eugene Wolff was absent from the meeting.

LoPresti Aviation currently pays $3,700 a month in rent. After the deferment period, the business would pay $4,700 until the $33,300 is back rent is paid off.

The mayor voted against the aviation company’s request explaining, in part, that if the business had a true partnership with the city, the city would share in the profit when times are good – just as the city would be sharing during these hard times through deferring the rent.

“The partnership has to go both ways,” Mayor Gillmor said.

He also pointed to the lease agreement LoPresti once had with Vero Beach – an agreement that had LoPresti paying for its own insurance. The City of Sebastian picks up the tab on insurance – an estimated cost of $1,000 a month, according to Mayor Gillmor.

LoPresti Aviation President Curt LoPresti presented his request to the council, telling the members that the business needs help.

“We’re working hard to be the best partner we can be,” he said. “We are in this together.”

He told the Sebastian council that the lease with Vero Beach was part of the reason the company began looking for another place to set up shop.

After the vote, LoPresti said outside City Hall that he could understand where the mayor was coming from.

“He has a job to do,” LoPresti said, adding that he believes the aviation company is a partner to the city and has helped to improve the area, in part, through its First Saturday events that benefit local charities.

Sebastian resident Damien Gilliams warned the council against approving the company’s request, explaining that it could lead to more businesses at the Sebastian Municipal Airport asking for deferrals on their rent as well.

“Where does it stop?” he asked. “We need to go slowly.”

Mayor Gillmor’s fellow council members expressed support for helping LoPresti.

“These are extraordinary times,” Vice Mayor Jim Hill said, adding that he doesn’t know a single business out there right now that isn’t trying to renegotiate something.

Hill continued to say he wasn’t sure the 9-month deferral would be enough to see LoPresti Aviation through, though, “I know nine months is sure as heck going to help,” Hill said.

Councilman Don Wright, who cited his experience in commercial real estate, said that lease renegotiations and rent deferrals happen frequently – especially in these market conditions.

“We are, in effect, commercial landlords,” he said.

Councilwoman Andrea Coy said that she does believe the aviation firm is a partner to the city and sees great value in that partnership. Coy had been on the team that negotiated with LoPresti Aviation to relocate the company to Sebastian from Vero Beach.

“This is not going to bust us,” the councilwoman said of the deferral, explaining that the city’s general fund would not be impacted by the request.

Instead, the Airport Enterprise Fund would not receive the rent payments for nine months, which could mean the fund’s budget might not balance, according to city records.

LoPresti Aviation employs 22 people, about a half-dozen of which live in Sebastian, according to LoPresti. Two live in Brevard County and the remainder live in Indian River County, according to LoPresti Aviation employee Mimi Erskine, who addressed the council in support of the request.

“I’m glad the city worked with us,” LoPresti said after the favorable vote.

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