Published Wednesday, March 28, 2012 | 11:48 a.m.
Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012 | 9:33 a.m.
A new plaque hanging on a wall at Boulder City airport thanks B.F.E. LLC for its help last week during the president’s sweep through town.
It’s from the federal government, which converted office space at the fixed-base operator — aviation lingo for companies that provide services at airports — into a miniature communications hub for the commander-in-chief’s visit.
Bob Fahnestock, owner of B.F.E. LLC, admits it’s a nice gesture, but a financial dispute with the White House communications team still irks him. (Fahnestock originally said he dealt with the Secret Service, which the Secret Service disputed on Thursday. Fahnestock then clarified he made out an invoice to the White House communications agency and had wrongly assumed the Secret Service was involved.)
“Whether you’re on the left or on the right, it didn’t make any difference to me,” he said. “We just wanted to help these guys.”
The sentiment apparently got lost in translation. Fahnestock didn’t mean a free ride.
When the government came calling the weekend prior to President Barack Obama’s March 21 visit to a solar field in Boulder City, Fahnestock granted federal officials permission to set up shop in his company’s offices.
B.F.E. LLC includes ramp and hangar space for aircraft, fuel services, flight school and on-site mechanics, among other services, Fahnestock said. He calls his business, which opened in 2007, a $10 million investment.
“We’ve been struggling like everybody else for the past five years,” he said.
That’s why Fahnestock didn’t think twice about charging the government for the accommodations.
After all, radios, wires, antennas and temporary phone lines created a labyrinth in the office space, he said. Plus, a temporary flight restriction during the president’s visit eliminated other potential customers.
“We had no idea what they wanted to do until it was pretty much all in place,” Fahnestock said.
Normally, Fahnestock said he would charge customers $100 a day for similar setups, but given the circumstances, he asked White House officials for $50 a day — enough to cover boosted electricity costs.
“Things kind of turned ugly” at that point, he said.
Government officials begrudgingly paid the $200 for their stay Sunday through Wednesday, but Fahnestock said his company simultaneously received multiple calls from federal officials denouncing the monetary request. The officials, he said, made it clear they would never be seeking his accommodations again.
“We wanted to accommodate and make sure things (went) smoothly,” Fahnestock said. “It’s just that generally you are compensated for it.”
The same principle applied to rapper and entertainer P. Diddy, who filmed a commercial at Fahnestock’s fixed-base operator late last year.
“What we charged him was substantially more than what we charged these days,” he said, referring to the president’s visit.
If there was a silver lining to the situation, Fahnestock said it was the interaction with military members in Boulder City that day.
“They’re really great to be around,” he said. “They have done great things for our country.”