Appeals Made to Let Business Stay at SMX

jolieJolie Lucas, Region 3 Vice President testified before Santa Maria Airport Board to encourage solution versus eviction for long-time airport business ArtCraft Paint.

Teresa Venegas Arredondo has been doing business at the Santa Maria Public Airport for 28 years as the owner of ArtCraft Paint Inc., and Thursday night friends and business associates made an appeal to the Board of Directors to let her continue.

After a long history of late rent payments, the board worked with airport counsel Ray Biering to serve a 30-day lease termination notice to ArtCraft in September. The company is still doing business in the large hangar, which has led to legal action in an effort to have the business removed.

The board listened to pleas from Arredondo’s friends and supporters, but no action was taken, meaning the case will remain in the courts.

The conflict has been a long time in the making.

Despite years of success in which ArtCraft has painted aircraft for celebrities such as Dukes of Hazard star John Schneider and recording icon John Denver, and political figures like Vincente Calderon and Alan Garcia, the former presidents of Mexico and Peru, respectively, the company has struggled paying its rent on time.

Arredondo’s business has earned mention in Aviation Consumer magazine as one of the best paint shops in the country. It’s also one of only 162 licensed aircraft paint shops in the nation, noted Hilda Zacarias of M.P.A. and Associates, an accounting and business organization firm that has begun to work with Arredondo to organize her bookkeeping practices.

On Thursday night, Zacarias and others asked the board to give her another chance to stay in her current location.

Zacarias pointed to many benefits the business has brought to the airport over the past 28 years: $1.7 million in rent and fees; work on more than 2,500 aircraft; $30 million in revenue; and jobs for 20 to 40 people, depending on the amount of business activity.

Zacarias also pointed out support for the business from Santa Barbara County 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, former airport board members Dick Hulme and Jim Klucker, and former airport manager Dan Hoback.

Arredondo, who chose to not address the board Thursday night, said in an interview that her company draws aircraft from all over the world for paint and restoration services, which benefits the airport with landing and fueling fees.

Despite the success, the business has also been a regular visitor to the airport’s delinquent tenant list during much of its lifetime. As recently as the board’s Nov. 29 meeting, ArtCraft Paint owed $15,488.16 in back rent and 60 days past due, an amount she has since paid in full.

“I always pay. I pay late fees and legal fees, whatever is needed,” she said in an interview. “The airport has always worked with me on this.”

Arredondo said she just wants to keep her business, and one day she wants to turn it over to her son, Alejandro, who is currently serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. That is why she hired Zacarias to help her organize.

“It is my goal for them to never have to pay another late fee,” Zacarias said.

Jolie Lucas, vice president of the California Pilots Association and co-founder of Friends of the Oceano Airport, and Diana Perez, a California State Parks off-highway motor vehicle recreation commissioner, also expressed support for ArtCraft.

In other business, Chuck Damiano was selected to serve as president of the board. Chuck Adams will serve as vice president, and Don Lahr and Carl Engel will be its secretary and vice secretary, respectively.