Vences New Rantoul Airport Director
August 9, 2016
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  • After working at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Eric Vences likely finds the Rantoul airport is a little more laid-back. A little quieter.

    Still, it was just the kind of job Vences was after. One that could provide management experience.

    Vences was introduced as the new manager of the Rantoul airport — officially Rantoul National Aviation Center — at last week’s village board study session.

    Vences goes from an airport with 9.8 million airline passengers a year and serves 13 airlines to one with 20,000 flight operations annually, an average of 55 per day.

    The Rantoul airport, in addition to its hangars for individuals and companies with their own planes, is home to a crop-dusting service as well as flight school for fixed-wing (planes) and helicopters.

    “At New Orleans, it was a unique position because it was entry level to the department,” Vences said. “But after business hours, we had the authority to make decisions that affected tenants. We basically had command of the airport when upper management was gone.”

    The Rantoul airport manager’s position has been open for about a year since Rune Duke left to take a position in Washington, D.C.

    The chance for additional management experience plus the opportunity for him and his wife, Lauren — they were married in June — to get back to their native Illinois was a chance too good to pass up.

    “My family was excited about it,” Eric Vences said.

    He is from the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg and earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. His wife’s family resides in St. Joseph.

    “I wanted to return home,” Vences said. “I was applying to just Illinois opportunities.”

    He will be in charge of monitoring and directing the general aviation activities, “keeping in touch with the Illinois Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, the FAA, managing tenants, the (fixed-base operator) and serving as a liaison with the village’s legal staff and airport tenants,” Vences said.

    The airport proper encompasses about 2 million square feet.

    There are 11 hangar tenants who lease within the airport fence line, plus 15 tenants in what is called economic development conveyance properties. In other words, properties the village owns on the former base.

    Much of Vences’ job will be working with those tenants, “managing the properties …, getting them inspected when they need to, trying to find new tenants when their (leases) expire and “expanding general aeronautical activities at the airport.”

    Other business

    Village Inspector Dan Culkin told the board the Plan Commission would meet to consider a request by Neill Schurter for a special use for the house at 214 S. Garrard St., which is located in a C-2 (commercial) district to be used for a single-family residence.

    Originally used as a home, the property was converted to an attorney’s office, and Schurter wishes to return it to a home.

    In his application, Schurter said the building will require minimal investment other than improving the bathroom facilities. The goal is to improve the saleability of the property.

    Police station repairs. Police Chief Erman Blevins told the board that bids had been received for ceiling and lighting upgrades to the police station.

    He said eight bids were received. The low bidder was contacted last Tuesday and asked to guarantee its bid but could not do so. The second-lowest bidder, Barley Contractors, Champaign, presented a bid for $127,729.

    “One of the things that makes this project unique is the police department is a 24/7 operation,” Blevins said. “The project will be done in phases. We can’t turn our building over to these guys. It’s going to lengthen the process for these guys and increase the cost for us.”

    Retention pond renaming. Board member Ken Turner, who is chairman of the naming committee, asked that an item be placed on the Aug. 9 agenda regarding the renaming of the Maplewood Retention Pond.