Saturday, January 7, 2012

City Searches for New Airport Operator. Meriden Markham Municipal Airport (KMMK), Meriden, Connecticut.

City staff and airport consultants have been running Meriden Markham Airport since December 1, after terminating their contract early with the most recent operator in late November. 

 

The city is looking for a new management company to run Meriden Markham Airport, after terminating its contract early with the most recent operator in late November.

City staff and aviation consultants have been running the municipally owned airport on Evansville Avenue since Dec. 1, 2011, when the Meriden Aviation Group relinquished control of the facility after just a year and a half into a five-year contract.

City of Meriden Purchasing Officer Wilma Petro described the decision to terminate the relationship as mutual.

"Both parties were unhappy," said Petro, who is the city's liaison to the airport.

From the city's side, the aviation group, which brought a flight school into the airport and was in discussions to bring in a skydiving operation as well, was not meeting certain contractual requirements on schedule, Petro said.

These included renovating the interior of the airport's administrative building in exchange for two years in the building rent-free. The group did make improvements to the upstairs which it was using for its flight school, according to Petro, but hadn't redone most of the first floor.

The aviation group's representative, Meriden resident Arian Prevalla, did not return a Tuesday phone call for this story. Petro said his company had been hit hard by last winter's historic levels of snow.

"They lost a lot of money plowing snow last winter...(Prevella) found that the revenue was not there," Petro said. She told city councilors the group had spent more than $100,000 last year plowing snow at the airport at a Finance Committee meeting Tuesday.

The city is working to get a new management company into place before the end of next year, City Manager Lawrence Kendzior told Finance Committee members Tuesday. Petro said she'd like to have someone in place by July 1 if possible, and will be issuing a request for proposals (RFP) in the coming months.

"I don’t want to be in this business (of running an airport)" said City Councilor Walter Shamock (W) at the Tuesday Finance meeting, urging city staff to find a new company quickly. Shamock and the committee voted on a $150,000 budget for the airport, to allow it to operate on its own revenues. The airport currently takes in fees for private planes housed at the facility. 

But Petro said she would like to have the city run the airport for a few months to see exactly what the facility's revenues and expenditures are before issuing the RFP – to have a better idea of what it takes to run the airport.

The last time airport management went out to bid, in 2009, it was to replace Meriden Aviation Services, which had been at the helm of Meriden Markham for 19 years, according to a 2009 Record Journal article. The company was ousted by the city for being behind on rent payments and other issues with its contract, the article said. Petro said the company had been there so long the city did not have a true handle on operating costs when it issued its last RFP.

The Meriden Aviation Group was the only company to respond to that RFP, according to the Record Journal.

Until a new manager is found, Florida-based QED Airport & Aviation Consultants is in charge of day-to-day operations at the airport, with a staff member on the ground collecting rents and on hand for those who use the airport. The Meriden Aviation Group's flight school is no longer operating there. 

Currently there is no gas for fueling or a mechanic on premises either, but Petro said she is working on getting fuel to the airport in the next few weeks and hiring a mechanic.

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