Helispec facing legal battle

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Helispec is facing a legal battle with investors even as it attempts to expand operations at its main helicopter repair facility in Brantley.

According to court documents, Camellia Air #2, LLC filed eviction proceedings in Crenshaw County District Court on April 29 against Helispec, LLC, namely Sandra Smith, Greg Holt and Mark Topping, the founders of the company. On June 9, District Judge Thomas Sport granted the motion for eviction.

The litigation, however, is far from over.

"We have not been evicted," said William Rayborn, attorney for Helispec. "We plan on painting helicopters in this region for a long time. We plan on being in this region for a long time."

Camellia Air #2, LLC claims possession of the old Meredith Factory building where Helispec is located. In an appeal filed by Rayborn on June 10, he said his clients are in that building by permission of the City of Brantley. In a motion filed by Raborn on behalf of Smith, she said Brantley mistakenly signed a lease with Camellia Air #2, 'which it intended to sign with Helispec, LLC.' The motion argued that Camellia Air #2 'induced the City of Brantley to sign the purported lease in an effort to increase its position in ongoing negotiations with Helispec, LLC.'

The motion also said it was Brantley's desire to lease real estate to Helispec at the amount of $1 per month for a five-year period. Helispec, in turn, would provide jobs and tax revenue to the city and to Crenshaw County.

In the motion for eviction Camellia Air #2 argue that Helispec had been properly served notice of the eviction, except Topping who they alleged is evading service.

Attorneys for Camellia Air #2 have moved for an emergency hearing in Crenshaw County Circuit Court and to dismiss all appeals by Helispec. They also said other prospects have contacted Camellia Air #2 about leasing the building.

The hearing should take place within the next few weeks.

Helispec announced its location in Brantley in October. The arrival of Helispec represented a $3.5 million capital investment in the town. Within three years, the company plans on employing 120 workers at its main facility located on Foster Avenue.

Holt, President of Helispec, could not comment much about the ongoing litigation. He did say that since the company's arrival in October Brantley had welcomed them with open arms.

"They want us to be part of this community and we want to be part of this community," he said.

The company has several certifications and is DCMA (Defense Contract Management Agency) approved, an agency with strict requirements as far as repair on government equipment and vehicles go.

That certification however, noted Holt, is only with current management in place.

Operations have grown fast for Helispec, said Holt. On Monday night, the Brantley council announced it would purchase four acres of land, located across from Helispec's main facility, and donate one acre to the company for a paint shop. Helispec was recently awarded a contract by the Army to re-paint 10 of its CH-47 Chinook helicopters. The new paint shop will be 22-foot tall, 70-foot long and 30-foot wide. It will be used to accommodate work on these larger aircraft.

Helispec is also in on-going negotiations to paint and refurbish helicopters for the Australian, New Zealand, Jordanian and Greek governments.