Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Committee favors airport becoming city of Yakima department

YAKIMA, Wash. — The idea of private management for the Yakima Air Terminal — one proposed solution to its ongoing financial and operational problems — has been rejected in favor of the facility becoming a department within the city of Yakima.

A joint committee of officials from the city of Yakima, Yakima County and the airport board recently rejected two proposals submitted last week for private management. Two management proposals were submitted: one by staff at the Yakima Air Terminal and one from ABS Aviation, a Tampa, Fla.-based company that offers management and marketing services for private and public aviation entities.

Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke previously promoted the idea of contracting out airport operations and management as a way to achieve cost savings for the airport at 2400 W. Washington Ave. The idea for private management came up after the city decided to assume sole ownership of the 825-acre facility earlier this month. That process is still in the works and will require formal approval from Yakima County, a co-owner with the city. County officials have indicated their support for the idea.

ABS Aviation proposed to manage and operate the airport for a $540,000 annual fee. The Yakima Air Terminal staff, in its proposal, estimated personnel costs to manage and operate the airport to be $568,652 for 2013 and dropping to $542,549 in 2014 with the retirement of a senior airport maintenance specialist. The proposals would have covered only personnel and airport management.

The airport has an annual budget of about $1.12 million, which includes personnel, management, maintenance, fees, utilities, office supplies and other expenses.

Ultimately, the selection committee found that neither proposal would sufficiently improve the airport’s financial position in the long term, O’Rourke said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Another problem with the ABS Aviation proposal, O’Rourke said, was that the committee felt the company wouldn’t take full responsibility for the airport.

With the city in the process of taking sole ownership of the airport and becoming more involved in projects such as a master plan update and air service development, making it a city department seems a better approach, he said.

“Since we’ll be heavily engaged with the airport anyway, it makes sense,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said the city will likely retain most of the airport staff for this new department to run day-to-day operations.

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