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Support for Willmar, Minn., airport operations supervisor agreement

Without a desire to hire an airport manager, the Willmar City Council requested city staff to pursue a contract for airport operations supervision with Eric's Aviation Services of Willmar. The exterior of the airport terminal is pictured in this undated file photo. Tribune photo

WILLMAR -- The Public Works/Safety Committee is recommending the City Council approve an agreement with Eric's Aviation Services of Willmar to provide airport operations supervision.

Without a desire to hire an airport manager, the Willmar City Council requested city staff to pursue a contract for airport operations supervision, said Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services for the city.

The city distributed requests for proposals and received two proposals: one from Eric's Aviation and one from Glacial Lakes Aviation, a new aviation business to be located at the Willmar Airport.

City staff interviewed the applicants and selected Eric's Aviation. Peterson presented staff's recommendation for Eric's Aviation, and the committee voted this week to recommend the proposal for council consideration Monday night.

The request for proposals lists 19 services related to airport operations including issuing weather and runway condition notices to pilots; making daily runway inspections; maintenance of airfield gates; inspecting and maintaining facilities, grounds and hangars; providing mowing; and working with city and economic development officials to market the airport, among other duties.

For the last three years, the city has had a contract with Maximum Cruise Aviation of Willmar to fill the airport on-site supervisor position. Maximum Cruise is the fixed-base operator and is responsible for fuel sales, ramp operations at the main ramp, care of transient passengers in and out and the on-site entity point of first contact for the city.

Maximum Cruise also operates a private aircraft repair and maintenance service out of a city-owned hangar. The city and Maximum Cruise negotiated a reduced-rate lease for airport space and Maximum Cruise is reimbursed for services performed for the city.

Maximum Cruise owners Brian and Marney Negen subcontract the on-site supervisor responsibilities to Eric and Mariah Rudningen of Eric's Aviation.

Peterson said staff knew the Eric's Aviation subcontract will expire at the end of 2012. The proposed agreement covers 2013 and 2014. Eric's Aviation, started in 2009, provides flight instruction, pilot service, mechanic and aviation consulting.

Peterson said the terminal building will not be staffed. He said a survey showed there was little need or demand for front-line deck staff. When airplanes arrive, people go to Maximum Cruise next door.

"The survey showed that most people that have those needs are rightfully going to the FBO, which is right next door to the terminal. It's obvious that's a logical place to go,'' Peterson said.

"But now with Eric taking over the operations' side of things, he'll be a lot more available at the terminal building itself,'' Peterson said.

The $76,000 annual cost is included in the 2013 budget, he said.

Airport Commission President Pat Curry and commission member Steve Nedrelow spoke in favor of the agreement.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150