With concern over the loss of businesses in Alpine, the City Council is looking to Alpine Casparis Municipal Airport to help boost economic development.
The council this week voted unanimously to authorize City Manager Erik Zimmer to issue a request for proposal for a private fixed base operator at the airport.
An FBO normally operates a fuel franchise but also can offer aircraft maintenance, sales and charter services as well as a flight school.
Zimmer said that someone with entrepreneurial experience could drive more traffic at the city-owned airport and improve the business climate in Alpine.
Mayor Avinash Rangra and citizen Oscar Cobos both said they recalled unpleasant experiences with an FBO in the past but Cobos said he does not oppose a new FBO if it could help boost the airport. Rangra did not comment further after the council unanimously approved the RFP.
Zimmer assured Cobos that the Airport Board and the city staff would continue to oversee operations at the airport and to provide capital improvements where needed. The FBO would be responsible for bringing in more traffic, increasing hangar rentals and boosting sales at the airport, including fuel.
Many of the capital improvements could be funded largely by federal grants. Typically, and FBO does not operate the airfield – the runway, taxiways, aprons and navigation facilities. They are normally operated by the airport owner, in this case, the city and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Activities an FBO might develop could be a flying club where members share the cost of operating airplanes, hangar rentals, pilot shops, restaurant and others.
Zimmer said the city “feels the sting” of the closing of some businesses in Alpine in the last few weeks and looks to “ancillary services” an FBO might offer.
An increase in business at the airport could drive up sales tax revenue, rentals and other positive contributions to the city budget, he said.
“Marfa looked into an FBO recently and if we drive the trend, they could also grow their business,” he said.
In other action, council authorized Zimmer to use city staff and existing budgets to remove the risers in the floor of the Alpine Civic Center to allow for better usage of the facility.
Work will begin immediately after the Livestock Show next month. It would include flattening the floor so everything is at one level, removing one bar, enlarging the back door near the stage to allow vehicles to enter and improving the lighting.
The larger door would allow trucks to deliver merchandise to the center and could also provide for a car show inside the center.
He said vendors who use city hotel/motel bed tax revenues for events support the idea.
Zimmer said there would be no cost to the city. The work would be done under the existing Public Works Department budget using city employees. It would be completed in four weeks or less, he said.
And council agreed to a plan to locate equipment at Kokernot and Baines Parks to provide for new equipment provided by the Big Bend Parks Board and
Recreation for Kids, a private effort to secure funding for Alpine parks. A swing set with one swing for a disabled child will be erected at Kokernot and another at Baines.
Board President Dr. Ekta Escovar told Council her group had raised enough for both swing sets and the second for Baines Park would be delivered in about two weeks.
“This group went about it the right way,” Zimmer said. “They didn’t come in here complaining. They went out and raised the money for the equipment.”
“My hat is off to you for the responsibility you took,” Rangra said.