Special to The Gardner News
Airport Board members and city officials ironed out a host of issues relating to the management transition between the two during the Dec. 14 airport board meeting.
On Jan. 1 the City of Gardner officially takes over managing the Gardner Municipal Airport and the Airport Board will transition into an advisory capacity, but until then, there are still quite a few questions about the transition and the eventual role of the Airport Board.
Ray Doerr, board member, said these next few months are going to be a stressful time for the board and the city and that he is concerned that the city is unprepared for the new role in managing the airport.
“There are a lot of things they (the city) haven’t really thought of,” said Doerr. “The main focus was for the city to take over the financials, but there is still a lot of things the board does on their own time that the city has never had to take care of.”
Doerr said he is also concerned with the explicit rules and responsibilities of the Airport Board in their advisory capacity and does not want to see the board be left out of the airport decisions. “We are supposed to be the voice of the people at the airport, and we need to make sure we are still effective,” he said.
Brian Faust, public works director, will take on the new role of airport manager in January and believes that there will be some issues during the next few months; however, he believes he and his staff are up to the task.
“We are going to have a few bubbles, and we will see a few changes out there,” he said.
The first issue to be tackled before the year ends are policy matters related to new hangar lease agreements and guidelines scheduled to go into effect in January. At the moment, there are still some questions related to insurance matters that need to be cleared with the city attorney. There are even discrepancies between airport guidelines and lease agreements.
Most of the meeting involved a careful inspection of new rules and regulations with input coming from the host of pilots and other concerned citizens. One point of concern was related to gliders and other ultra light-weight aircraft at the airport. Several months ago, there was concern that the new guidelines would not allow for their continued use at the airport.
Another issue they encountered was related to exactly who would maintain which parts of the hangars.
Dale Rose, board member, was concerned that without a clear delineation of hangar maintenance and communication between maintenance and a renter, there could be damage done to the hangars by a renter or potential damage to an aircraft during routine maintenance. The example he gave was related to a burned out light bulb in a hangar and whose job it is to replace it.
One source of contention in the new agreement has to do with subleasing hangars. In the past a person who rents a hangar has been able to sublease it out when they are not using it. Unfortunately, this has led to a system when renters never give up their hangars and simply choose to sublease them for indefinite periods of time. Faust said this practice circumvents the airport hangar waiting list and prevents people from using the airport. There are people who have been on the waiting list for ten years and cannot gain access to the airport due to a very low turnover rate. Subleasing can also lead to confusion about who exactly is using the hangars, which can cause problems during an emergency.
The city council decided to allow subleasing through 2016, but will end the practice next year.
Airport board, City of Gardner prepare for management transition