Saturday, December 24, 2011

Privatization of airport on the table: The Florida Keys Marathon (KMTH), Marathon, Florida

Monroe County Mayor David Rice says private management would be a consideration after longtime employee and Florida Keys Marathon Airport Manager Reggie Paros retires in 2012.

But Rice was clear the county would explore all options, including "the tried and true" of having a county employee in charge.

"Reggie is retiring and that might be a good time to do it. What we might do is possibly put out a [request for proposals] to the industry and evaluate our options at that point," Rice said. "We might be able to get a more efficient operation and a bit more aggressive management. They would benefit financially from the success of the airport."

Marathon Vice Mayor Dick Ramsay said he's not keen on the idea and that he told Rice so at a recent meeting of city and county officials.

"Initially, I'm very skeptical, but I'm listening to make sure I've got all the facts before I make final comments," he said.

Ramsay, the city's liaison to the county-owned airport, has long been a proponent of Marathon having more input at the airport. He proposes dual oversight in the future.

"I'd like to see that done with representatives of each planning the future of the airport and what's best," he said. Rice says any decision is several months away.

"I'm not at all sure that everyone at the city is comfortable with [privatization], but we haven't even talked about it at the level of our commission. It remains to be seen whether that option is pursued," he said.

Rice and Ramsay each say the airport, which the county essentially operates as a business, is minimally profitable. Paros did not return Thursday and Friday calls for comment.

"On a good year, it breaks even," Rice said.

Ramsay says he has ideas, such as an air show, to help the airport produce more revenue. Right now, no commercial carriers fly into Marathon, only private planes, FedEx and Mosquito Control.

"The airport is absolutely in the black, but it doesn't make a lot of money. In my opinion, it doesn't make a lot of money because we haven't ... talked about initiatives that could turn the airport around," Ramsay said.

The airport is the second county function that's been floated for privatization in recent weeks. Upset with the performance of the county Building Department, County Administrator Roman Gastesi has said he's considering hiring an outside firm to handle its duties.

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