Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lost: Warren County airport easement map, if found please bring to county officials - Queensbury, New York

QUEENSBURY, NEW YORK —  Warren County officials are making a last-ditch effort to find a long-lost property map that could be worth nearly $1 million.

The map purportedly shows avigation easements on property around Warren County airport that were purchased when the airport was built in the early 1940s.

It could possibly save the county from having to pay $930,000 for new easements and property purchases that the Federal Aviation Administration has asked requested to remove obstructions from the flight path for the airport’s shorter runway.

Unfortunately, the map has been lost dating back to at least 2005, to the point that the county Board of Supervisors earlier this year agreed to buy new easements and purchase some of the property that county leaders know they already have some easements on.

That is not sitting well with Upstate New York Taxpayers Advocates, whose members have made an issue of the decision to spend money rather than make another effort to find the map or pursue litigation that could settle the easement issue and potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor-elect Doug Beaty, a UNYTA member, asked the county Board of Supervisors on Friday to hold off on the easement and property purchase process to make another effort to find the map, asking that county staffers “turn over every rock.” Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mark Westcott said he has formally asked the FAA to put a hold on the easements/purchase.

County Attorney Martin Auffredou said his office and the airport manager, Ross Dubarry, have renewed the effort in recent days to see if the map can be located. The effort comes after The Post-Star reported on the issue last week.

“I hope we find something but I’ll be candid with you, I don’t think we will,” Auffredou said.

He said there was no need to put the purchases on hold, because nothing was expected to occur with them in the next few weeks. The issue will be discussed at a Facilities Committee meeting in late January, he said.

Auffredou said the county attorney’s office determined it didn’t have grounds for legal action to try to iron out the issue without the map. And the map may not be detailed enough to settle the easement issue anyway, he said.

Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Dan Girard, chairman of the county board’s Facilities Committee, which oversees the airport, pointed out that the county’s share of the easement/land purchase tab is about $50,000, 5 percent of the cost. The FAA takes care of the rest, through funds generated by aviation user fees.

He said the $50,000 pricetag of local taxpayer money seemed worthwhile to avoid the unknown costs and possibility of success of litigation.

Travis Whitehead, a member of UNYTA who spoke at the meeting, said Girard’s comment “galls me.” He pointed out that the issue first surfaced at county board meetings in 2005, and at that point it was believed $50,000 worth of easements and no purchases would be necessary to satisfy the FAA obstruction requirements. It has come up several times over the years, as the price tag grew to $930,000.

Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe suggested county officials check the deeds for the properties in question to see if the easements are detailed there, but Auffredou said the deeds were checked and refer back to the map.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport (KVVS), Connellsville, Pennsylvania: No longer a 'sinking ship,' authority says

 Fayette County Airport Authority members adopted a 2014 budget on Tuesday night that includes a slight surplus amid claims that the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport is no longer a “sinking ship.”

“We're in far better financial shape than we were a year ago. We've definitely made some progress,” said authority member Jesse Wallace whose term will expire at the end of the year.

“We're slowly getting back on our feet,” Wallace added. “We now have better accountability with money coming and leaving the airport.”

Board member Bill Gerke, who was appointed to replace former authority member Fred Davis, said the authority couldn't afford to pay its operating expenses and bills last year.

“Today, the airport is not a sinking ship,” Gerke said.

Airport manager John “Buddy” Neckeraurer said the airport still owes about $27,000 to Purvis, the airport's fuel supplier.

Cathy Malago, the authority's administrative assistant who resigned from her position at the meeting, said the authority will be in a position to pay off the $27,000 debt at the beginning of the year.

Following an executive session, the authority accepted Malago's resignation. She declined to comment on why she resigned from her part-time position.

The budget includes a net profit of $8,657.15. The breakdown of the $520,270 net income is as follows: $114,793, hangar rentals; $250,000, Jet A fuel sales; $100,000, Avgas fuel sales; $44,749, building and land rent; $2,364, office rent; $3,000, tower rent; and $5,000, miscellaneous sales.

Expenses include $119,000 for payroll costs; $20,000 for professional legal and auditing services; $52,880 for utilities; $1,000 for advertising; $6,475 for airport office supplies and expenses; $1,865 for vehicle expenses; $6,667 for loan expenses for furnaces; $7,000 for fuel expenses; $3,076 for grounds repairs; $36,000 for insurance; $23,000 for facility repair and maintenance; and $3,450 in miscellaneous expenses.

Once the budget was presented, Gerke asked whether the authority can expect to receive $114,000 in hangar rentals, which would mean no vacancies and rental at 100 percent capacity.

“I don't know if that figure is accurate because it's almost impossible to have the rental at 100 percent,” Gerke said.

Neckeraurer said the authority has its hangar rental space filled except for several of its older hangars that are available for lease.

Authority members are continuing to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to resolve ongoing deficiencies, including hangar and land-use issues.

If those deficiencies are not resolved in a timely manner, the authority could lose future state and federal grant funding.

In other business, the authority agreed to give its employees a $200 end-of-the-year gift. A $100 gift will be given to an employee who have worked for six months.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

West Branch Community Airport (Y31), Michigan: Commissioners not planning to rescind motion on airport manager’s raise

WEST BRANCH — The Ogemaw County commissioners do not plan to rescind a motion to increase the county’s appropriation to the West Branch Community Airport $7,000 for a raise for the airport manager.

Commissioners discussed the issue at their monthly Committee of a Whole meeting held Dec. 19. The appropriations increase was passed 3-2 at the county’s Nov. 26, intended to be the county’s portion of a $10,000 raise.

However, the decision sparked controversy between the city of West Branch and the county when Mayor Todd Thompson revealed the county hadn’t been paying what he says is its fair share of the budget. Thompson said the county paid $8,187 less than its 70 percent in 2013, and had budgeted to pay $7,550 less in 2014, prior to the vote to increase its appropriation. Thompson said the city had been paying its 30 percent share of the requested budget from the airport each year.

But Ogemaw County clerk’s office Administrative Assistant Caren Piglowski said the county often does not pay the requested amount.

“To my knowledge, in the years I’ve been here, we have never granted the full appropriation amount,” she said. “But that’s not uncommon. They could ask for $100,000. That doesn’t mean they’re going to get it.”

Ogemaw County Clerk Gary Klacking said there is a difference to the way the city appropriates money versus the county.

“So there’s a disconnect to how you’re appropriating those amounts because the city’s always thrown in their 30 percent based on what the airport’s initial proposed budget is,” Klacking said. “The county sees it and says, ‘No, we can’t do that.’ What the old agreement says is it will be reviewed by both parties and they in turn will decide what they want to appropriate. And then the airport should adjust accordingly.”

Board of commissioners Chairman Greg Illig said anyone is going to request more money then what they were getting before.

“It’s the same thing as the animal control or anything else, if we’re giving them $16,000, they’re going to request $20,000,” he said. “We come down with a negotiated appropriation, or we just say no, we’re sticking with our same appropriation.”

Commissioner Ron Quackenbush said the airport board decided upon the $10,000 raise for the airport manager based on what other department heads in the county receive. He referenced Emergency Management Director Carol Adair, who the county recently agreed to pay $45,000 to, plus benefits. But Illig said the two jobs can’t be compared.

“I guarantee her job is a hell of a lot more stressful than his,” Illig said. “He has obligations, but he’s not totally busy all the time.”

“I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve a raise, but $10,000 is an awful lot of money in one year,” Illig added.

The Herald learned that Airport Manager Lane Taber has also been given use of a hangar at the airport to use to work on planes and make extra money. No one has said how much Taber makes from the work performed in the hangar, but Quackenbush said Taber performs winterizing and inspections, and the amount of work has gone down significantly.

“As far as the hangar issue out there, what he does out there, Kim and I discussed that with him,” Quackenbush said. “Lane discussed that with us when we met with him, and he said that over the years, the small plane repair business has continually shrunk.”

Illig said he wasn’t concerned about the hangar.

“What he makes off that hangar, I don’t care about that,” he said. “My sticking point in this whole situation is if Dwight (McIntyre, county treasurer) comes down to us and says, ‘I want to increase my budget $20,000, so we’re just supposed to automatically match that? Is that what you’re telling me?”

“No,” Quackenbush answered.

“That’s what the airport did,” Illig said. “That’s exactly what you did. You said you needed $10,000 more to pay Lane’s salary and it didn’t matter. You came up with a motion and we’re going to pay that every year now. Now the city’s saying we’re not paying our share. They want us to pay more than the $50,000. We have no say over (the airport’s) budget. We’re just supposed to match it by (70 percent). I’m not willing to do that. We don’t give that benefit to anyone else in the county.”

Illig said he thought the airport should propose a budget to the county for approval, as other departments do.

Commissioner Brenda Simmons said the agreement with the city was originally for a 50/50 split, but that changed when the city couldn’t afford a property purchase to extend the airport in 1984.

“The only reason it went to 70/30 was because of the purchase of that land,” Simmons said. “(The city) couldn’t afford to pay it. Prior to that, they could afford the 50 percent. … I’m looking at, they could afford 50 percent now.”

But Illig said he doesn’t expect the city to pay any more.

“You’re never going to get the city to pay an additional 20 percent,” he said. “There’s no advantage for them to do it. But you’ve got to talk about it. That’s the bottom line.”

The board agreed that a meeting needed to be set up to clear up the confusion over the appropriations. Simmons suggested the airport board meet with Klacking from the county, as well as West Branch City Manager Tom Youatt, to come to an agreement.

The meeting will be scheduled for sometime after Jan. 1.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fairmont hires new airport manager: Fairmont Municipal Airport (KFRM), Minnesota

FAIRMONT - Nearly 40 candidates applied to be Fairmont's new airport manager, with the position going to someone who has the winning combination of the right educational background, on-the-job experience, and local connections.

In his second week on the job, Lee Steinkamp is still getting a feel for the airport and the community, but he has a starting advantage.

"I've had an interest in aviation since I was really young," he said.

The 31-year-old Ankeny, Iowa, native has been working in the field for 15-some years, from his humble beginnings mowing the lawn at his hometown airport. He was 16 years old, and it was his first job, but he soon moved up to fueling and handling aircraft.

Steinkamp continued to work at the airport after he graduated from high school. By the time he completed his general education credits at a nearby community college, he had also succeeded in earning his pilot's license.

He had no doubt that aviation was the career for him.

As a student at the University of Dubuque, he tackled the dual degrees of aviation management and flight operations, and upon graduating returned to his hometown to manage the Ankeny airport. During this time he also met his future wife: Kaylynn Origer, a Fairmont High School graduate.

The two moved to Rochester, where Kaylynn worked as a physician assistant at Mayo Clinic, and Steinkamp worked at Signature Flight Support.

The two were married October 2011, and they stayed in Rochester two-plus years. But they were missing something.

"She wanted to get closer to home," Steinkamp said.

That's when the position opened at Fairmont Municipal Airport.

Previously, the airport manager/fixed-base operator was an independent contractor, but this year Fairmont City Council decided to change that model. The airport manager is now for the first time a city employee position, under the supervision of Public Works Director Troy Nemmers.

"Lee's excellent qualifications and his family ties to the area all factored into his hiring," Nemmers said. "I am glad that we were able to attract a young couple to the community, and I look forward to his new perspective managing the city's airport."

The status quo isn't enough for Fairmont City Council, which has charged the new hire with making the airport grow.

Steinkamp is first getting to know the lay of the land, before launching into research and recruitment mode to find a fixed-base operator. Having someone on hand to offer flight instruction, charter aircrafts, or maintain aviation equipment could go far in attracting new clientele to the airport.

It's a big job, and Steinkamp is starting with public relations.

"We already have a really nice airport here. We need to play that up," he said, listing off amenities like the newly reconstructed runways and resurfaced ramp, and the hangars, maintenance and terminal buildings.

"We're lucky to have all this here at the airport," he said.

Steinkamp is also responsible for making sure day-to-day operations are running smoothly, from fueling and servicing planes, to clearing runways of snow and debris, to keeping the place looking clean and attractive to local and out-of-town visitors.

"I'd like to do a little facelift on the main terminal," he said, referring to the aging paint, carpet and furniture.

Other duties include making sure the airport meets all state and federal rules, keeping the city council and airport advisory board updated on airport activity, and working with engineers and state officials for airport improvement projects.

All these responsibilities need to be performed with a friendly smile, since Steinkamp is the official town greeter for those people entering Fairmont via its airport.

Steinkamp says the aviation community and the community at large have done a great job making him feel welcome.

"The interim managers have been very supportive, and I look forward to continue working with them," he said, referring to the four-man team of Mark Craven, Verlus Burkhart, Dennis Thate and Homer Scott, who together managed the airport since October, while the city sought out an airport manager.

"Everyone that I have met in the community and at the airport has been very supportive and receptive. I have received a lot of positive feedback," Steinkamp said. "I want to thank the community for the warm welcome and continued support."

Story and Photo:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CVG leader Steve Arlinghaus reprimands board, announces ‘control' over Cincinnati intact - Letter to board met with opposition

HEBRON, Ky. – The Kenton County Airport Board got a stern talk from Kenton County Judge Executive Steve Arlinghaus at Monday night’s regular board meeting.

Arlinghaus told board members to cut luxury expenses, insisted they end the negativity and reassured them that Cincinnati will never control the board.

The typed letter from Arlinghaus, which he read aloud to the board Monday, stems from reports of excessive spending by some board members -- but it didn't stop there.


It was the dig at Cincinnati that didn’t sit too well with O’dell Owens, president of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, and a non-voting board member. He is the sole board member appointed by the City of Cincinnati.

“I’m not going to let anyone put Cincinnati down,” said Owens. “No one messes with my city.”

“Some people in our community have agendas to tear down the board or to give control of the airport to Cincinnati,” Arlinghaus read from his letter to the board.

“Please do not be distracted by these efforts. I am very proud of the Cincinnati representatives I have appointed to the board and I will continue to take a regional approach when making future 

appointments to the board. But please know that, as long as I am Judge-Executive, I will do all in my power to oppose any efforts to wrest control of the airport from Kenton County. We cannot allow these personal and political agendas to succeed,” Arlinghaus continued.

But before Owens could give his full two cents to Arlinghaus — who appoints the board members who serve on the executive committee and are the sole voters on the board — the judge executive walked out of the meeting.

“It’s on between you and I, Steve. Why bring up Cincinnati? It’s a cheap shot,” Owens said. “And I’m not going to allow it.”

“Cincinnati has never tried taking over this airport… And I resent that. I have never advocated that this airport should be under the control of Cincinnati,” said the board’s Queen City representative. “It’s on. It is on.”

David Siebenburgen, a private investor, who is new to the board, spoke up, saying the letter wasn’t exactly the warmest invitation to Cincinnati.

“Seeing something like this, this is not a very inviting comment. And I guess I would suggest that if a future board member from Cincinnati were to see something like this, that might not work for the good of the airport,” said Siebenburgen, who is newly appointed by the Hamilton County Commission.

In the letter, Arlinghaus detailed a list of changes for board members when it comes to travel, alcohol and meals.

Those changes stem from reports of excessive spending in all three reports that have since prompted the Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen to take a closer look, investigating all expenses through the board.


From this point forward, Arlinghaus told the board, they must each pay for their own alcohol at events. He added there will no longer be food served at board meetings, and when they travel, board members have to fly coach instead of first class.

He also advised board members to attend as many educational opportunities as possible, through conventions and training sessions, as well as stay on task, allowing pending investigations to play out so that the airport can get back on track.

“Serving on any public body brings scrutiny and accountability, which is healthy and appropriate,” said Arlinghaus. “I would ask that the Board and staff fully support and assist, as requested, the inquiries and investigations the Board has approved and that of the State Auditor is undertaking so that we can expedite these inquiries as quickly as possible. It is absolutely imperative that no one pre-judge any matter until these inquiries are complete. Let’s have the facts come out first and not rush judgment.”

“The sooner these processes are completed, the sooner we can get back to focusing on the responsibilities for which each of you have been charged regarding the oversight and operation of CVG,” he told the board.

The letter from Arlinghaus comes to the board in light of the documented plans to oust the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport CEO Candace McGraw.

That document detailed talking points on how some board members planned to remove McGraw from office, including what they would say to the public regarding her termination or forced resignation.


It was what spurred Arlinghaus to confront the board Monday night—telling them to lay off the negativity and work together.

“Serving on any public body comes with scrutiny, and occasionally, a few slings and arrows.  That can be uncomfortable but it is part of the assignment. I ask that each of you stay focused on the business at hand—making CVG the very best airport it can be,” said Arlinghaus in his letter.
After the meeting wrapped up, Arlinghaus released the following statement:

“I went to the board meeting tonight to encourage every board member to work together as a team. Board members have a responsibility to do that. I was surprised and disappointed that the Cincinnati appointee would criticize me for appointing someone from Procter and Gamble to the board. I am going to continue to take a regional approach to the airport board, and I will tell you this–we will never cede control of this airport to Cincinnati as long as I have anything to say about it.”

While the letter comes just after some board members’ plans to dismiss McGraw from her seat were revealed, the board did not discuss her future with the airport during Monday’s meeting.

Story and Video: 

5-year food, alcohol bill for CVG board is $102K: Fare served included steak, sea bass, top-shelf drinks; events potentially violated open meetings laws

Monday, December 16, 2013

No hang-up for hangar, West Star officials hope: Grand Junction Regional Airport (KGJT), Grand Junction, Colorado

Denny Granum, Grand Junction Regional Airport Board

West Star Aviation plans to go ahead with plans to build a new paint hangar at Grand Junction Regional Airport early next year, but airport officials aren’t yet ready for them to move forward.

West Star General Manager Dave Krogman said the original time line for its 40,000-square-foot paint hangar, which is expected to create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs, has not been disrupted by a federal investigation into the inner workings of the airport.

The expansion could eventually create as many as 150 new jobs, each paying up to $52,000 a year.

Krogman said West Star expects to break ground by March or April as planned.

But Denny Granum, chairman of the Grand Junction Airport Authority board, said the investigation has made it impossible for the authority to sell the $8 million in bonds it needs to buy the hangar and lease it back to West Star.

As a result, the project could be delayed, Granum said.

The authority approved a concept for the project in October that called on West Star to secure a construction loan for the hangar by Dec. 1.

That has not happened, Granum said.

The plan also calls for the authority to issue revenue bonds to buy the hangar once it is built and then lease it back to West Star. Bond commitments were supposed to be in place by Sunday, but that will not happen either, Granum said.

“The authority’s ability to bond is on hold,” he said.

Granum said bonds can’t be issued until the FBI investigation is resolved and no one knows when that will happen.

Alternative arrangements that would allow the authority to buy the hangar from West Star without bond financing are under discussion, he said.

Those discussions include getting the city or the county, both of which own the airport, to guarantee the debt, allowing the bonds to be sold.

Granum said West Star Chief Executive Officer Robert Rasberry told him Dec. 12 that the aircraft maintenance company is committed to finding a way to make the deal happen.

Meanwhile, final architectural drawings are going through a vetting process with the city as originally planned, Krogman said.

West Star has already spent $600,000 to get final plans in order and is proceeding with the original construction time line without regard to the FBI investigation, in hopes that it will be resolved before construction is to start, Krogman said.

“We want to be ready to break ground when the time comes,” he said.