June 11--With the increase of traffic at Schlemeyer Field Airport in Ector County, the company providing fixed base operations is becoming more important than ever.
And, as is policy in the county, that contract is once again going for bid.
The fixed base operator (FBO), or day-to-day management company of the airport, has been FarMor Aviation for the past 10 years.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Dale Childers said the county doesn't want to get into the airport management business, so hiring a company to do the management is the best route to go.
"I used to get quite a few complaints, when I first took office, on the airport," Childers said. "And (FarMor's) dealt with those complaints pretty well, and I don't get many anymore."
The FBO takes care of all the day-to-day operations of the airport, Childers said, which includes loaner cars, using an airplane tug to pull the aircraft from the hangars, selling fuel, and generally making sure pilots have everything they need.
Winston Kenworthy, the president of the Airport Advisory Board, said the FBO is the first impression a pilot has of a town.
"They can go to Midland International as easy as they can come here," Kenworthy said. "Whoever's running the FBO will definitely influence whether people want to be here or not. If you can give people a very good first impression of our city, I think it makes a big difference."
For instance, Kenworthy said the FBO made a difference in Family Dollar regularly coming through Schlemeyer Field.
Childers said he's had a good relationship with the owners of FarMor, and specifically the FBO helped clear out hangars that were filled with non-airport related things to make room for anyone who wanted to use hangars for planes.
Ector County Judge Susan Redford said the bid process must happen every so often to keep the contract at the best rate for the county.
However, the five year gap is because the position can't be a "revolving door," Redford said.
Pruett Aviation Inc. was given the contract in 1998, and extended its contract through 2009. That company then assigned all of its rights to FarMor, which had the agreement through 2014.
Kenworthy said similarly, the airport board will be looking to guard against any company responding to the request for proposals (RFP) that doesn't have the long-term interests of Ector County at heart, and is instead trying to capitalize on the oil boom.
"I do know that the county is wanting somebody that's not going to try and come in and take advantage of the situation, but is interested in the long-term health of the airport," Kenworthy said. "Just kind of like housing, if they were to, say, triple the rates on the hangars, well there's no place for people to go. It's kind of a hostage-type situation."
Childers said he knows several vendors have already requested the RFP to be sent to them, but this year's RFP was left intentionally open to interpretation in some areas.
"The RFP was left kind of vague because we want the vendors to be creative and say, this is what I want to bring to Ector County," Childers said. "We want this airport to really move into the next decade, where it's really successful."
The RFP does have a number of requirements of an FBO, including after-hours on call, selling of fuel, selling of oil, tug service with no charge when fuel is purchased, courtesy vehicles, rental car services, overnight hangar services and plane washing.
The contract will be for 10 years, according to the RFP, and proposals will be evaluated on: qualifications/experience/expertise, understanding of project and soundness of approach, operating/service plan and schedule of operations, development/marketing plan, financial strength/insurance and bonding/payment of taxes, references, lease agreements, and proposed fee/rates.
A spokesperson with FarMor could not be reached by press time.
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