Friday, September 22, 2017

Hastings Municipal Airport (KHSI), Adams County, Nebraska: Council mulls options for airport’s future

Members of the Hastings City Council spent more than half an hour during their work session Monday discussing what they want the Hastings Municipal Airport to be.

Councilman Paul Hamelink, who serves as a council liaison to the airport advisory board, requested discussion about the airport organizational structure at the work session.

“I think it’s something we want to look as an opportunity for economic development for the city,” he said. “For that to happen, we’ve been addressing issues of how we structure the city for other departments, and this is a good opportunity to do that (with the airport).”

One option would be establishing an airport authority. However, Hamelink said because an airport authority would operate autonomous of the city, that is something he opposes.

“Because I see this as an opportunity for economic development, it ought to involve things like Hastings Economic Development Corp., the chamber of commerce, those sorts of things,” he said.

The airport is currently overseen by the city’s engineering department.

Councilwoman Ginny Skutnik asked Hamelink if there are needs that are not being met.

Hamelink said it’s more like opportunities not being met.  

He would like to see the airport operate similar to the Hastings Museum or Hastings Public Library with a functioning board that’s under the umbrella of the city.

Councilman Butch Eley presented Nebraska municipal airport statistics courtesy of the airport advisory board.

Hastings is in the middle based on population of communities with an airport but is the only airport that does not provide aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, aircraft rental and fuel truck services.

“Which is why when people are flying into those other airports they are spending a lot of money on fuel at those airports,” he said.

Skutnik asked how many potential new businesses are asking for aviation services.

Mayor Corey Stutte said the city has had “quite a few” businesses he described as “near wins” that have flown into the community, assessing Hastings.

“If some of these businesses that would bring in 150-300 employees into our community actually happen, they’ll be shuttling people back and forth from their headquarters,” he said. “They would like to fly into Hastings versus Grand Island. From HEDC’s perspective, I do think they see it as an economic development opportunity.”

The area west of the airport is designated for use as an industrial park.

Because of the economic development potential with the airport, Hamelink suggested the city’s development services department might be the best department to oversee it with a part-time employee taking that oversight role.

Stutte asked Hamelink if the city needs a fixed-base operator to run the airport.

Hamelink agreed that would be a good move.

Stutte suggested the city put out a request for proposals for a fixed-base operator to run the airport.

“That doesn’t mean we’re necessarily committing to anything, but at least it gets us off of center where he have been sitting on this issue for the last year,” he said.

Hamelink questioned whether the city could put out a request for proposals if the airport oversight structure has not been identified.

City Administrator Joe Patterson said moving the airport under the oversight of the development services department would be quite a change with regard to city structure.

“It may have merit, but we need to do a lot more discussing and looking at how other cities are managing that resource,” he said. “We know where we’re at. The question is, what does our community need it to be? I’m not so sure we’ve done enough soul searching to really answer that question. Certainly, from what we’ve inherited 17 years ago (from the airport authority) to where it is now from a plant perspective is totally different.”

He said he would work on drafting a request for proposals for an FBO.

The council also went into executive session to discuss personnel.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.hastingstribune.com

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