Posted on

Starting fresh

County reworks airport manager duties, title, hours as part of overhaul
Starting fresh
With the size of its runways and its central location, Taylor County Airport sees a wide variety of planes both big and small stopping. SUBMITTED
Starting fresh
With the size of its runways and its central location, Taylor County Airport sees a wide variety of planes both big and small stopping. SUBMITTED

Taylor County is reworking how the county airport is managed.

On Tuesday, members of the airport committee voted to approve creating a part-time airport coordinator position which will be eligible for county benefits.

Airport committee chairman Chuck Zenner said he has been working with county human resources director Nicole Hager to develop the position and was asking for approval for it from the committee. He said he would like it to be a half-time position with expanded duties beyond just airport operations to include promotion of the airport.

“I would have a hard time selling a full-time position to the county board,” Zenner said. Traffic volume has been lower in recent years since Weather Shield ceased having a corporate jet See AIRPORT on page 4 based at the airport. However, the airport still sees regular business from companies such as Sierra Pacific and Nestle as well as other businesses in the region. There are also a number of private pilots who are based out of the airport.

In the ideal world, Zenner said they would like to get someone to run the airport who also has a complimentary business such as running a flight school or aviation mechanics business which could be run there also. This is a model that other smaller airports have had success with.

Under the proposal, the airport coordinator would be eligible for county benefits and, according to Hager, if they worked at least 1,200 hours a year would be eligible for the state retirement system. This would come to about 20 hours per week.

The county would continue to utilize casual part-time workers for things like snow removal and mowing as needed or for maintenance projects that require more than one person.

Former airport manager Fred Ebert cautioned that if the county set it at 20 hours a week, it would prevent retirees from getting the position since they would lose their state retirement benefits. “You have to do whatever is best for Taylor County,” he said.

Zenner suggested they advertise for the position and see what kind of applicants they would get. Committee member Mark Hoffmann questioned why they would want to put it out there and potentially deter people from applying for it. While he said the county definitely didn’t need anyone more than 20 hours a week, they should be more flexible.

Hager agreed and said it would make the applicant pool wider.

Airport employee Jeff Mayer, who is serving as the interim head of the airport, noted that in the past when it was a full-time manager position and he was hired as parttime help they always found plenty to keep them busy all day, every day.

Hoffman said there were concerns on both ends from having the airport either overstaffed or understaffed. “Both ends make no sense to me,” he said.

In the end, committee members preferred the flexibility of having the position work up to 20 hours per week. After 600 hours a year they are eligible for county benefits and at 1,200 hours a year would be eligible to be part of Wisconsin Retirement System.

Committee members approved creating the position and setting the job description for it. The job description and position will go to county’s personnel committee for action.

In related action, committee members officially named Mayer as the interim airfield manager for the airport. This is solely a job title change and does not change hours worked or compensation. The intent of the change is so that any new person hired comes in to be his equal for a period of time as they get settled in the position.

In the job description discussion, it was noted that the county asks for a degree, but that the county also will accept any combination of training and experience in place of the degree. It was suggested to specifically include military experience in the job requirements, given the amount of aircraft-related positions there are in the military.

“Typically it is a plus for any job,” Mayer said, of the benefits of prior experience serving in the military.

Committee members approved the job description with the changes.

Airport improvements

Committee members voted to “aggressively” work toward finding a way to purchase the Weather Shield hangar.

The county received word that the Medford-based window and door company would be listing the hangar for sale. The county has looked at ways to increase hangar space at the airport to rent out for planes for business or private visitors or to encourage planes to be based here.

The airport makes revenue off of fuel sales and the more traffic the airport sees, the greater the amount of revenue from fuel sales it could see. Zenner said he has spoken with the engineering firm who works with the county on getting eligibility of federal funding for projects and said there is a potential for this. In addition, there are other funds tied to the airport which could be utilized for the purchase including the potential of COVID relief funds which must be spent or returned to the federal government.

It would take full county board action to approve the purchase of the hangar.

In other business, committee members approved using Federal airport improvement program funds to purchase a new John Deere tractor to replace one purchased in 1999. The tractor will be used for snow removal around the hangar areas as well as for other maintenance projects. AIP funds come from airport fees travelers pay and are divided among all airports in the country to help with maintenance and equipment upgrades.

 Approved the sale of surplus equipment at the airport including an unused plow, and a sand spreader that were on previous pieces of equipment that are no longer being used.

 Received an update on the planned event at the airport to be held September 28. The community event will include vendors, music, games and activities for all ages.

Ambassadors from the Medford Area Chamber of Commerce joined with Dr. Joshua Thiede and his family on Friday afternoon in a ribbon cutting ceremony for Quality Care Chiropractic and Wellness in Medford. SASKATOON DAMM/THE STAR NEWS