Red Willow County may have to pay $7,758.70 in storage costs if commissioners want to collect the county's helicopter collateral in Colorado.
County attorney Paul Wood and commissioners Monday morning talked to the manager of a Longmont, Colo. hangar owners' association in whose hangars Ron Willocks has stored the helicopter prototype that he developed with a $300,000 loan from Red Willow County's revolving loan fund. Willocks, operating as "Pawnee Aviation," failed to repay the loan, and the county is attempting to get possession of the helicopter and a flatbed trailer that were collateral for the loan.
HOA manager Mike McRhodes told Wood and commissioners that Willocks owes $7,758.70 in storage fees through Dec. 31, 2009. McRhodes is e-mailing invoices to commissioners today.
Rex Nelson of McCook, who administers the county's loan program, said that Willocks has declined to pay the storage costs due to his medical expenses.
McRhodes told commissioners the helicopter is "not in the way," and that the HOA has an agreement with Willocks to allow storage costs to accrue until the helicopter, trailer and two sets of rotor blades are (re)claimed.
McRhodes told commissioners, "I saw it (the helicopter) tested out here. It's kind of a unique ship ... actually it's amazing to me." He said that, during the test, the helicopter got off the ground, but it didn't seem to have enough lift. With modifications, it was ready for another test, but Willocks' health problems intervened, and the next test never happened, McRhodes said. To get the helicopter to fly again, McRhodes said, it would have to be retuned, but it has been in a controlled environment, not left outside to the elements.
McRhodes told commissioners, "It would be incredibly difficult to put a price on the prototype" such as this. A complete helicopter kit was to sell for $80,000 to $90,000, he said, compared to helicopters that start at a quarter-million dollars.
"It's a pretty solid ship ... a rugged ship," McRhodes said. "It would be worth quite a bit as a production model."
McRhodes said there is a "serious market" for helicopters for less than $100,000, particularly overseas. McRhodes said about Willocks, "He's absolutely on the edge of moving into production with this. I think his health was one issue that disabled the project."
Willocks has agreed to turn over to the county the helicopter, flatbed trailer, two file cabinets and computers with CAD (computer-aided design) drawings that are located in Colorado, and equipment and tools located in McCook.
Commissioners are contemplating the wisdom of paying storage costs to claim the helicopter when the resale value of the helicopter is in question.
There's also the matter, commissioners were told, that a Kansas man claims ownership of the same helicopter because of the substantial amounts of money he invested in the helicopter's development.
Commissioners will continue discussion of the helicopter at 9:15 a.m., at their March 22 meeting.