Detroit Airport at Center of Power Struggle

DETROIT -- Like other concessionaires at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport, on-airport rental operators there await a court decision on which government body -- the Wayne County Board of Commissioners or the newly formed Wayne County Airport Authority -- has control over the airport. U.S. District Judge Corbett O'Meara has scheduled a hearing on the matter for May 14.

Alamo/National, Avis, Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty all operate on-airport locations.

Historically, the airport has been under the jurisdiction of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners. But in February, Michigan Governor John Engler and Wayne County Executive Edward McNamara unveiled a plan to form a county airport authority to manage Detroit Metro Airport and Willow Run Airport.

A bill creating the seven-member airport authority, sponsored by State Senator Glenn Steil (R-Grand Rapids), was signed by the governor on March 26. The bill requires that the authority includes four members appointed by the Wayne County executive, two members appointed by the governor, and one member appointed by the Wayne County Commission.

However, the county commission on April 22 filed a federal lawsuit against Governor Engler, County Executive McNamara and the Federal Aviation Administration. The suit is aimed at preventing the transfer of the airport's federal operating certificate from the county commission to the new airport authority. County commissioners argue that such a transfer represents a $2.1 billion loss in property worth without due process or compensation.

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