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Amid dispute with Hertz, airport board hopes for another car dealership to compete

Sep 21, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

When Riverton's airport board tried to convince the airport's Hertz dealer to be open on Saturdays, the board members didn't know that request would lead them into a maze of corporate stonewalling that would ultimately lead Hertz officials to cut off all communication.

Since the end of the 2017 fiscal year, the local Hertz dealer has now been operating without a lease agreement. The city has been wary of forcing them, out, but has been trying to use the situation as leverage to expand the agency's operating hours.

Currently, the dealer isn't open on Saturdays, nor when late flights come during weekdays.

Meanwhile, the airport board members have made it clear they think it's imperative for the agency to be open whenever a flight lands in Riverton.

"We're not interesting in removing Hertz as much as we want to accommodate the traveling public," board member Bob Lebeda said. "If we can't get cooperation from (Hertz), then we'd like to see if there would be some interest from some other group."

Board vice chairman Mick Pryor agreed that he'd "like to have a bit of competition up there."

"If there's no resolution that can be made, we need to be nimble enough to move on," Pryor said.

There had been some back-and-forth discussions with city staff and Hertz corporate during the summer, but city works director Kyle Butterfield said last Friday the corporate office hasn't been in contact with him for two months.

"They've completely disrespected us in that regard, he said. "This is still a topic of frustration."

Butterfield is now drafting a formal letter from the airport board demanding a response from Hertz lest the board moves forward on "potential next steps."

Board chairman Dean Peranteaux said that for the city "to have some teeth ... there needs to be some sort of punishment."

However, he said the board shouldn't take too strong a stance if it leads the city to be devoid of any car rental agency.

"We really don't have anyone jumping up and down wanting to open another rental car agency," he said.

Butterfield agreed with that assessment, especially since the airport receives lease payments and a percentage of car rentals.

"Having some sort of ground transportation at our airport is critical," he said.

Butterfield said the city could actual go through a formal search process for another car rental agency if the relationship with Hertz continues to sour. The city could also use the Fremont Air Service Task Force to probe for interest.

City council member Mike Bailey, who serves as liaison to the airport board, said it's still prudent for the board to retain the agent they already have.

"We don't want to cut off our nose to spite our face," he said.

Butterfield said his last discussions with Hertz officials indicated the company's attorneys were reviewing the request.

"It is completely out of the hands of our local agent," he said.

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2017-10-17