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County restructures posts, Ebert full time at airport

The Airport Committee is set to move Fred Ebert from working part-time at the highway department and the Taylor County Airport to working full-time exclusively at the airport.

His duties at the highway department will be combined with another worker. Ebert spent nearly 19 years on the job.

Ebert said it was an ironic happenstance when it was first proposed to him that he work exclusively at the airport, as he was beginning to enjoy the work over the highway department.

“I had just told my wife that I could actually see finishing my career down at the airport, I really enjoy what I’m doing. A couple days later Ben [Stanfley] brought up the prospect of doing the airport thing full-time,” Ebert said.

The hard winter nights of working in freezing rain and snow is one thing Ebert won’t miss, along with constantly monitoring radars throughout the night to see what the weather is like on the other part of town.

“The on-call at the highway department during winter [was tough.] In the middle of the night, if there’s a chance it’s going to snow, you’re getting up every half hour to go look outside... At the airport it’s much more subdued. We don’t plow during a storm, we can wait until it’s over,” he said, noting that unlike a commercial airline, they don’t have proper de-icing equipment, and thus do not accept airplanes during snow storms.

The airport received a $20,000 grant from the COVID-19 disaster relief CARES act, which largely went towards the purchasing of fuel, which they in turn sell to passing planes for a profit. They were able to scoop the fuel up while it was at the bottom of the market, filling up their tanks with approximately $19,000 worth of jet fuel, giving them the opportunity to bolster monetary intake. Despite the grant, Ebert is worried for the future of their sales.

“EAA was always a good week for us, some of the traffi c would stop by to fuel up. Think of all the fuel we’re not going to sell that way with pilots not flying in and out,” he said.

Normally the airport sells 1,000 gallons a month, a goal that they are set to fall far below. Last week they sold only 40 gallons, and have sold zero gallons as of Tuesday, though some buyers are lined up for later in the week. Their last big sale was two weeks ago, when a larger airplane took in 300 gallons of fuel.

“If a corporate plane comes in, they’re flying crosscountry, they might buy a bunch of fuel from us,” Ebert said. “Now those guys aren’t flying as much. That’s a big dent in our revenue right there.”

Ebert hopes it was unfavorable weather that kept some pilots away and not fears of the virus.

“We’ve got one bigger customer that comes through once a month and we haven’t seen him yet,” he remarked. “That could cost us $1,000 a month right there.”

Being able to lead by the reins is important for Ebert, as it enables him to quickly make decisions. While not officially a department head, he will be largely in charge of the going-ons at the airport and report directly to the airport committee Ebert was instrumental in saving the airport a large sum of money over the past several years, and said he has come under budget every year he’s been there, estimating that in the first three years alone they saved $100,000.

“They’ve got crop fields around the runway, they used to just mow it and leave it,” Ebert said. “I contacted one of the farmers in the area and they’re actually cutting that for us, and paying us per bale to take it and feed their dry cows... that’s probably a couple hundred acres of mowing time and fuel we save.”

He also pays close attention to equipment, opting to buy high quality used products over newer and pricer gear.

The move was approved by the airport committee, and they now wait on being finalized by the personnel committee. Ebert will then officially begin his job as air-BRIAN port working supervisor.