EDITORIAL: Airport Board should hire full-time manager

Oct. 11--It's time for the city of Aberdeen to revisit its transportation plan and consider hiring a full-time airport director.

The airport is just too important to Aberdeen and the surrounding area to make planning and implementing its future a part-time job.

The Aberdeen Regional Airport manager position was full time until a few years ago, when its former manager, Tom Wylam, resigned in October 2002. At that time, Mayor Tom Hopper and the then-city commission decided to explore the option of combining the positions of Ride Line director and airport manager into a new transportation director position.

During these discussions, Mayor Hopper said Dave Osborn had been exemplary as Ride Line director, citing his work ethic, his ability to get grants and work with people. After more talks -- this time between the city and the Federal Aviation Administration -- it was concluded there wouldn't be a problem with combining the two positions, and Osborn was hired for the job.

It was an impossible juggling act.

Managing an airport -- a job that is vital to a city's economic development -- should be handled by someone with a background in aviation and airport management. Although perhaps difficult to find and retain, those people are out there; former airport directors have had those sorts of credentials.

Jim Barringer, executive vice president of Aberdeen Development Corporation, said that airport reliability, frequency and overall ticket cost are important to current and future economic growth.

He's exactly right. Air travel is integral to economic development efforts, and vitally important to current and future businesses and employers.

The recent contract snafu surrounding the pullout of Great Lakes Airlines from Aberdeen has city and airport officials seething.

Here's some history: The city received a $500,000 federal grant and had permission to use it to attract a second airline. Great Lakes was interested and the grant money was used to fill gaps between Great Lakes' projected revenue and actual sales. The grant money ran out in March, but Great Lakes officials said they had no intention of leaving early.

City officials -- and the traveling public -- are upset because it was generally assumed that Great Lakes Airlines had signed a three-year, $2,700 monthly contract with Aberdeen Regional Airport to rent space. In reality, the airline never signed the contract.

There are conflicting stories as to why the contract wasn't signed, but the bottom line is the signature line on that document is empty.

The very nature of a split position demands that one job or another get less attention than it would if its director position was full time. The airport needs more attention.

Now is the time to evaluate the need for a full-time airport manager.

We think it's time to hire one.

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