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City Council OKs airport management agreement

Andy Griese works Monday on a Mooney M20C aircraft at Willmar Municipal Airport. Brian Negen, president of Maximum Cruise Aviation, has reached an agreement with the City Council for his aviation service to serve as the on-site airport manager. The agreement calls for Negen to provide staff necessary to assist with supervision and management of the airport and all city property located there. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- Brian Negen will be making sure everything's operating smoothly at the Willmar Municipal Airport.

Negen, president of Maximum Cruise Aviation LLC, doing business as Willmar Air Service, and the city have reached an agreement for Negen's aviation service to serve as the on-site airport manager.

The management agreement with Negen was negotiated by city staff and was approved by the City Council on Monday night.

The agreement will replace the full-time airport manager position, saving $45,000 in salary and benefits the first year, said City Administrator Michael Schmit. Negen will be paid a fee of $1,000 per month.

Schmit said the agreement is in lieu of filling the full-time airport manager position, which was vacated by the resignation of Melissa Galvan. Schmit said the agreement is designed to run throughout the balance of 2009, at which time the city will re-evaluate the success of that program.

"I don't have any doubt that we'll be successful,'' Schmit said. The manager will be responsible for such daily activities as checking the runway lights, opening and closing the terminal, and maintaining the buildings, among other things.

Much of the paperwork with state and federal aviation agencies will still be handled at City Offices, said Schmit. He suggested the agreement either be submitted to a committee for discussion or be approved by the council.

"We would like to get moving on it as soon as we can,'' he said.

The three-page agreement calls for Negen to provide staff necessary to assist with airport supervision and management and all city property located there. His supervisor will be Holly Wilson, assistant city engineer.

The manager will provide one or more persons to perform the daily activities needed to keep the airport safe, accessible and operational.

The city will mow the grass, plow snow and perform administrative duties.

"We've tried to spell out as best we can all of those different responsibilities,'' said Schmit. "One of the bigger items is just having a presence there at the airport and being able to deal with the public, the flying in traffic, the tenants out at the site.''

Council member Ron Christianson asked if Negen will be using the manager's office. Christianson said his concern is that the city will have a presence at the airport.

Schmit said Negen's company would use the office and said there is a plan to expand the staff to help oversee the new responsibilities.

"Yes, our requirement is that they would have a presence there from 8 to 4:30 or 5 five days a week in the office and that they would have someone there representing the on-site manager on the weekends as well,'' he said.

In an interview earlier Monday, Negen said he'll make sure everything's operating smoothly and will be keeping airport users happy.

Negen worked for Willmar Air Service from 1997 to 1999 and from 2001 to present as chief aircraft maintenance inspector. He has seven employees and sells and services new and used Mooney aircraft.

Negen said it was his life-long dream to own an air service business. He purchased the business last October from Bruce Jaeger, who took up the business from John L. Rice, who started air service in Willmar in 1945. Maximum Cruise Aviation continues in the footsteps of Willmar Air Service as the airport's fixed base operator.

Negen said his goal is to increase the general interest at the airport. He plans to add a trainer aircraft, offer flight instruction and rental aircraft.

In other business, the council tabled a proposed ordinance that would let dogs accompany persons into outdoor food and beverage establishments. A law passed by the 2008 session of the Legislature allows cities to write such ordinances.

The council was encouraged last June by a local dog owner to enact an ordinance. It allowed any eating and drinking establishment with outdoor eating and drinking areas to make application for a license to allow dogs in the outdoor area of the establishment.

No one spoke in favor of the ordinance and one local resident, John Lambing, spoke against allowing dogs in the restaurant outdoor eating areas.

Council members were reluctant to approve the ordinance because businesses have not shown any interest in it.