OTTUMWA — One of the first steps toward a new contract for a fixed base operator at Ottumwa Regional Airport was taken Tuesday when the city’s airport board met to discuss proposals from Ottumwa Flying Service and Archangel.
The costs in the two proposals are very different. And it appears possible there will be negotiations on the exact amounts before any contract is signed.
In the first year, OFS would receive $64,750 from the city. Archangel’s proposal puts that figure at $46,000.
Differences are greatest in the second year. Archangel drops the payment it would receive to $45,000. OFS increases the city’s payment to $71,250.
Both proposals also include some revenue the airport for items like hangar and office rentals and fuel sales.
It’s not a straight question of money, though, as shown by the board members’ discussion of fuel. The difference between an operator fueling the planes for pilots or the pilots using a self-service approach to fueling is considerable. It’s a question of appearance for the airport and a financial question. Providing the service directly typically costs more than a self-service approach.
Airport tenants matter, too. The board discussed whether Musco Lighting, one of the major residents, would prefer a longer-term contract to provide stability. Musco’s apparent concerns also include fuel prices, which leads back to the question of how the operator would provide aviation gas for planes.
This whole process is playing out days after an incident at the airport raised concerns for the Secret Service during Donald Trump’s visit to Ottumwa.
Keeley Paris, a pilot who frequently flies out of the airport, said Secret Service agents were concerned by the presence of firearms in Steve Black’s OFS office. That prompted them to shift Trump’s arrival at the airport from the terminal to a secured location to the east.
It’s not clear whether the presence of guns at the airport violates city policy. But Paris said firearms and smoking in the airport terminal raise questions for him.
“Anywhere else I go this wouldn’t be tolerated,” he said. “If any other city [contractor] did this, something would be done about it. But, for some reason, the city turns a blind eye.”
The next step is a pair of interviews on Friday. Those interviews won’t be carried out by the full airport board, though. A committee will conduct the interviews. The committee tentatively involves City Administrator Andy Morris, Mayor Tom Lazio, several other city employees, but only one board member.
City Attorney Joni Keith said the interviews will not be open to the public.
Board member Jim Lindenmayer said the committee members need to be sure they fully examine the issues in the proposals and the airport. Information, or a lack thereof, matters.
“If you just go and ranked them without knowing the subtleties, it could come out a lot different for the city,” he said.
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