Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Council postpones FBO / Airport Manager discussion: Independence Municipal (KIIB), Iowa

INDEPENDENCE – Jonathon Walter, the Independence Airport Manager and Fixed Base Operator (FBO) advised the entire City Council Monday night of his reasons for tendering his resignation after only a little over a year in the positions.

“My decision to leave stems from many issues pertaining to the City’s lack of development at the airport,” Walter stated. “This has caused the airport to lose potential profits … it has impacted the ability to grow my business or to bring in any new business to the airport. This direct lack of interest in producing anything positive for the community, especially the airport, has marginalized my position as Manager and my ability to curtailed such apathy. As Airport Manager I’ve been rendered all but useless. My advice has been overlooked or dismissed, and instead I have been micro-managed to such an extent that any efforts on my part to better the airport for the City have been destroyed before any progress could be made.”

Walter said his decision was not made rashly and he hopes to keep his business locally.

“Excluding any new proposals or alternate considerations to my contract offered by the City,” Walter said, “I would ask the Council for a motion to accept my request for a mutual 30-day resignation.”

After Walter’s statement, Mayor Carl Scharff allowed three airport patrons and Walter supporters to speak. The three, Lee Bowden, John Bagge and Jeff Rottinghaus, had registered to speak during the Public Forum, but requested their time be used during the discussion of the Airport Manager’s petition.

Bowden, a local pilot, educator, lecturer and promoter of aviation, reviewed Walter’s qualifications, aircraft and business.

“He has consistently had over 20 students, including students from Ontario, Canada,” Bowden said. “Lately the University of Dubuque students have been coming over here for instruction from Jonathan because they have learned of his superior ability and knowledge regarding flying.”

Bowden also discussed Walter’s banner towing business and how Walter worked with federal authorities in developing the procedures and the rules regarding banner towing. Bowden also spoke about Walter Aviation being the only banner towing service in the state of Iowa and also about Walter’s aerobatic flying certifications.

Bowden ended he his remarks by praising Walter’s attention to maintenance of the grounds and runway, and for the implementation of the summer-long bi-weekly cook-outs where the public was invited to visit and learn more about the airport.

The next speaker was local farmer John Bagge. He started out questioning why Walter’s pay and benefit package was not at the level of other Department Managers’ pay. Bagge praised Walter’s conduct, saying it very professional. Bagge told how he had taken flying lessons 20 years ago and wanted a few refresher courses without starting at square one. Bagge said Walter would not allow it because of regulations.

“Jon said ‘No, you will do it by the book’,” said Bagge. “It might offend you a little bit at first, but I learned quickly that you do it by the book or you die … Jon does not cut corners.”

Bagge also brought up the fact that there is a waiting list for hangar space.

“You can’t grow if you put people on a waiting list,” said Bagge. “They’ll go to another airport … I see [the airport] as a very good asset for the community.”

Last to speak was Rottinghaus from La Porte City. He is also a pilot, stating he was trained by former FBO Jim Connell. He runs his crop dusting business out of the Independence airport. He said his customers often ask why doesn’t operate out of an airport closer to his fields.

“I choose not to, because I like the atmosphere and the services at the Independence airport,” Rottinghaus said. “Jonathan has done a wonderful job managing it.”

Rottinghaus referred to a newspaper article about Iowa’s “Brian Drain” of young people and asked the Council to try to keep Walter here.

“He brings so much to your community in the form of aviation,” Rottinghaus said.

After the speakers the Council decided to not act on Walter’s resignation, but to set time for a closed session during the next Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 28 to discuss Walter’s contract.


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