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12:31 PM Mon, Nov. 19th

City moves toward fixed base operator for Prescott Airport

PRESCOTT - A proposed shift at the Prescott Airport that officials say would increase the level of service for pilots got positive reviews from the Prescott City Council this week.

At Tuesday's council study session, Airport Manager Ben Vardiman outlined a plan for turning over fixed-base-operator duties at the Prescott Airport to a private company.

Through the proposed lease, the city would relinquish the aviation fuel sales that it has conducted at the airport for years, and turn that service over to Legend Aviation.

The company also would be responsible for a number of support services for the general aviation aircraft and passengers.

Vardiman explained that the city has provided the fixed base operations at the airport since at least the 1950s, in addition to its focus on maintenance and regulatory operations.

Through the years, Vardiman said, the "dual role" that the city was playing caused a situation where "items in both the FBO and the operational/maintenance side of the airport have suffered."

For instance, he said, the airport was providing minimal customer service. In addition, the city recently received a citation for failure to maintain adequate staffing for the maintenance and operation of the airport, as required by the Federal Aviation Administration, Vardiman said.

Those situations led to a determination that the city should change the way it operates the airport. Officials are proposing the privatization of the fixed based operation as the most beneficial option.

"This would allow the airport staff to shift its focus," Vardiman said.

The lease, which would become effective on March 1, would require Legend to pay the city $216,671 for purchase of the existing aviation fuel equipment. In addition, the company would pay the city $1,111 per month - $13,334 per year - for the fuel farm, and $82 per month for a fuel farm extension.

The company also would pay the city "fuel flowage" fees, ranging from 25 cents per gallon of aviation gasoline in the first year to 10 cents per gallon by the fourth year. For Jet-A fuel, the charge would range from 35 cents per gallon in the first year to 10 cents by the fifth year.

Basically, Vardiman said the switch to a private fixed base operator would allow the airport to give the public a level of service "that has never existed before at the airport, while at the same time minimizing the risks and liabilities to the city..."

That was a prospect that appealed to City Council members.

Councilman Jim Lamerson noted that not only would the lease shift some of the responsibilities and liabilities away from the city, it also would give the private sector an opportunity to get involved.

"I think it's a good idea, and I'm looking forward to it to start," Councilman Robert Luzius added.

The move also will eliminate 10 part-time employees, Vardiman said, and leave just eight full-time airport employees. Legend has indicated that the 10 part-time employees should contact the company about possible continued employment, Luzius pointed out.

The council placed the lease with Legend on its consent agenda for next week's voting session - a move that usually indicates that all members support an action.

Legend Aviation was the only company to respond to the city's request for proposals this year. While an earlier request for proposals in 2005 generated several proposals, city officials determined that none were satisfactory.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com