Airport board approves amended Cummins lease

Columbus Municipal Airport’s board has approved an expansion of the space leased to Cummins, Inc for its test track at Walesboro.

The Columbus Board of Aviation Commissioners approved an amendment to Cummins’ lease at the former airport. Commissioner Lisa Prentiss, who is a Cummins employee, abstained from the vote.

The commissioners previously voted to approve a lease agreement with the company, which included a slight expansion of the land Cummins was already leasing for its test track. Airport Director Brian Payne said in April 2022 that the company planned to add a portion of different track surface, more buffering around the test track and some additional parking.

This latest amendment expands the lease by an additional 6.14 acres to the north, near Deaver Road, Payne told the board. He explained that as Cummins began developing the parking lot area and test track expansion, they realized that it would be to their advantage to lease additional land. Without the addition, they would have to configure the track in a way that would lose several hundred feet of straight roadway.

The lease rate on the expansion will be equivalent to the rate on the property the company was already leasing.

“It would be an increase of just over $9,000 per year,” said Payne.

The airport approved the expansion, subject to Cummins’ confirming that they understand the maintenance and upkeep requirements of their original lease. This caveat was added in response to comments from David Bonnell with Halderman Real Estate and Farm Management, who serves as the airport’s farming manager.

Bonnell expressed concern about Cummins’ property maintenance, which he described as non-existent.

“Everything that we turned over to them, that they took, made us quit farming, is basically weeds and is starting to go back to trees,” he said. “Which is, in my mind, kind of a red flag.”

Payne said that improvement and maintenance was included in Cummins’ lease to begin with, and the airport will remind the company of this.