Airport change moving ahead

FAIRMONT – With the City Council’s approval, the Fairmont airport in the future will be considered another city department, to be run by a city employee.

Earlier this year, the council voted to terminate its fixed-base operator and maintenance contract with Five Lakes Aviation, effective at the end of September. On Monday, the council approved a draft of an airport manager’s job description, a move that will allow the city to seek candidates for the position.

The vote was unanimous, but not without discussion.

Councilman Terry Anderson praised city administrator Mike Humpal for doing a good job trying to find a balance to please everyone, but Anderson was not keen on adding another employee to the city’s roster.

“This is another employee, but the position will be paid for with airport revenue,” noted Councilman Wes Clerc.

The city actually expects to save money by keeping the management position in-house, with some duties such as snow removal potentially contracted out.

“We’ll invest all that money back into the airport,” Humpal said.

Another positive Humpal pointed out is that by switching from a contracted position to a city employee, the city will have more control over the airport, and a better ability to make changes as the need arises.

“A job description can be changed,” said Councilman Chad Askeland. “… I think we need to go forward with this.”

Anderson wondered if the city would make changes, though, particularly if the person hired needed to be fired.

“When was the last time a city employee was fired?” he asked, to which, several involuntary turnovers were mentioned, though none in recent history.

Anderson also questioned if the airport advisory board’s role and the job description for the new airport manager overlap, causing potential conflicts.

According to Humpal, the department would work in a similar fashion to any other department that reports to an advisory board. The council may consider changes to the advisory board in the future if needed.

Councilman Joe Kallemeyn had some logistical questions, such as how the city will contract out certain duties, and how the airport will be run when its new manager uses paid time off.

Based on Humpal’s research of other cities’ airport operations, minor contracts are typically arranged with private businesses to cover vacation time. Regarding other services that would need to be contracted out, Humpal said he has not been able to talk with prospective contractors until he got the OK from the council.

In other business, the council:

o Approved a permit to block off a portion of Arthur Street between West Amber Lake Drive and Cedar Creek Court for a neighborhood party on Oct. 5.

o Approved a permit from Grace Lutheran Church to block part of Grant Street from Tilden to Webster Street to host its Rally Sunday Carnival from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 8.

o Approved an agreement with GovQA for a mobile application for smart phones and tablets, in order to improve communication between the city and its citizens. The cost to develop the application is $1,500, plus a monthly maintenance fee of $100.

o Set a public hearing for Oct. 14 for a petition to make a portion of Lake Park Boulevard a one-way street, after receiving a petition signed by residents on Lake Park Boulevard, Lake Park Place and Runyan Place.

City staff requested time to complete traffic and parking analyses before making any recommendation.