The Fairfield County commissioners and the Fairfield County Airport Authority are reaching out to find a manager for the airport.
In the last five years there have been three managers, and the current contract with Sundowner Aviation expires at the end of the year.
“We are going to open this up to anyone who wants to submit a proposal,” said county administrator Carri Brown. “We hope the current manager submits a proposal as well as others. It is the normal process we go through when the contract expires.”
Glenn Burns, president of the Fairfield County Airport Authority Board, said whoever is the manager is looking at a couple of major projects during the next five years.
“We are going to overlay the runway and will need to make improvements to the terminal building to make it compatible with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act),” Burns said.
The Fairfield County Airport also has direct and indirect impacts on the local economy.
A 2014 two-year study, conducted by Massachusetts-based consulting firm CDM Smith, designed to evaluate the economic impact of Ohio’s public airports, found that 121 jobs, $3 million in payroll and $9 million in output of goods and services can be attributed to the Fairfield County Airport. The most frequent operations include corporate flights, power line and pipeline operations, and recreational flying.
The airport is county-owned with a 5,004-foot runway. The airport has 72 T-hangar bays, six box/corporate hangar bays, a terminal building, maintenance hangar, two corporate hangar buildings and the Historical Aircraft Squadron Museum building. There are currently 19 T-hangar bays unoccupied, according to the county’s request for proposals.
“We want to open this process up and hope to get multiple proposals from people interested in running the airport,” Brown said.
Back in 2011, the Fairfield County Airport Authority had Fairfield Air Ventures contracted to be the airport manager in exchange for hangar space and the right to sell aviation fuel. But the company notified the county commissioners in May of that year that Fairfield Air Ventures had withdrawn from the original contract, because of sustained financial losses.
The Airport Authority in a letter to the commissioners said it had negotiated a new agreement with Matthew McCarty to manage the airport starting in June 2011.
McCarty was a partner in Fairfield Air Ventures and had been part of the management team which had run the airport under FAV.
Under the contract worked out with McCarty, the Airport Authority paid McCarty $1,000 per month plus 10 cents per gallon of fuel dispensed and the continued use of some hanger space.
On Jan. 1, 2013, Sundowner Aviation was selected to take over the airport manager position. Under contract, the manager received $2,500 per month; a $5,000 bonus if hangar occupancy exceeds 85 percent and another $5,000 bonus if occupancy reaches 95 percent. They also received 10 cents per gallon of fuel sold; 10 percent of the hangar rent income; and has incremental incentives bonuses of $2,500 for fuel sales over 90,000; 100,000; 110,000; and 120,000 gallons per year.
Burns said Sundowner Aviation has provided the airport with some consistency since it took over the operation, noting they’ve increased flight training, fuel prices have remained very competitive with other regional airports, and they’ve developed an excellent maintenance program.
“We’ve been very pleased with what they have been able to do,” Burns said. “But their contract expires and we want to see everyone’s proposal. I’m sure they are going to submit one and we are going to look at any that is submitted.”
Pat Rooney, a co-owner of Sundowner, said the terminal is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We’ve gone to five rental planes and a sixth one will be delivered tomorrow,” Rooney said. “We have 230 pilots and student pilots flying with us now.”
The company has also installed a Redbird TD2 flight simulator for training purposes.
Rooney said they intended to submit a proposal for a new contract.
The county will issue request for proposals on Sept. 24 with intent to bid notices needing to be submitted by Oct. 1. A question and answer period will run through Oct. 8 with final proposals due by Oct. 23.
The new contract would begin on Jan. 1 and the estimated contract length would be for five years.