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Airport manager search panel, timeline set

The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission Tuesday morning named an airport manager search committee and set a tentative timeline for that decision process.

Members named to the search panel were airport commissioners Jeff Czeczok, Andy Larson, Beth Pfingsten, Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek (or his representative), Brainerd Police Chief Corky McQuiston (or his representative), Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl (or his representative), Howard Pihlaja, a retired airline pilot; and interim Airport Manager Rick Adair.

The tentative timeline for having a new manager in place — one that was described by Chair Andy Larson as optimistic — was June 1. He said ads for the position would be placed in February and resumes received in March. He hoped to have a short list of candidates for the full airport commission to consider by the end of April with an offer extended to the top candidate in early May.

“We don’t want to drag it out but we don’t want to rush it,” commission member and Crow Wing County Board Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom said.

Adair said Great Lakes Airlines, the air carrier chosen by the U.S. Department of Transportation to replace Delta Airline, was working with Delta to coordinate computer ticketing issues. He said the new airline would take part in the Essential Air Service subsidy. The airport qualified because it is more than 175 miles away from a major hub and has more than 10 passengers on its carrier flights.

Perry Nouis, a member of the staff of Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., said the House and Senate passed a four-year funding package for the FAA and it’s awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. Cravaack was a member of the Conference Committee for the legislation. Nouis said the congressman has still not received any response from DOT to letters he and other officials have sent voicing concerns about the airline switch.

Adair said he expected Delta to continue serve as the airport’s carrier until at least April 3 and until Great Lakes Airlines is ready to step in.

Timber Mist was hired as a caterer for the Feb. 14 Business After Hours event, which will feature the newly remodeled airport terminal. About 200 people are expected to attend and the cost to the commission will be about $1,800, with that cost be defrayed by cash donations that are being collected.

Adair was jokingly asked by commissioners if his tuxedo was ready for the event.

“I will not be wearing a tuxedo,” he said. “I may take my baseball cap off.”

Officials from the engineering firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson said the remodeling project is essentially completed with workers finishing a punch list on smaller details.

The commission made the following 2012 committee assignments: Personnel (the Brainerd City Council representative, the Crow Wing County Board representative, the airport commission chair and the past chair); Operating: (Larson, Czeczok and possibly a third member to be named later); Public Relation/Marketing (Czeczok, Commissioner Beth Pfingsten, commissioner and Brainerd City Council member Kevin Goedker and Nystrom); Contracts and Leasing (Larson and Czeczok).

The commission identified two entities it wants to work with as it considers interior decorating ideas for the terminal in the future. The two are Danae Blanck Anderson of I.D. Your World and a partnership including Millie Engisch Morris and Dyan Westman. The commission members said further interior decorating is not time sensitive and further action may wait until they know how much money will be available to spend.

“We need a framework to make this decision,” Larson said.

Adair reported the renovated aircraft was successfully placed upon its display stick at the airport entrance and he thanked the many donors who made the project possible.

In other action, the commission:

Accepted a grant for floor cleaning equipment.

Decided to publish the schedules for its committee meetings.

Ratified a contract with the union representing the Airport Rescue Firefighters. The agreement calls for no wage increase in 2012, a 1 percent hike in 2013 and a 2 percent hike in 2014. In addition the firefighters will receive a 50-cents per hour increase after being certified as certified weather observers. Voting no was Czeczok, who said information on the settlement was not in the information packet and he did not have enough information. Adair noted that the agreement was not reached until Thursday afternoon and was too late to be included in the packet. This was Czeczok’s first regular meeting as a commissioner.

Agreed to offer airport secretary Raini Mohler the same percentage wage hikes as the union members. Czeczok voted no again for the same reasons. He later said the wage hike for Mohler was appropriate and he said an attempt should be made to document an outline of her duties so that if she leaves her post at some point a new manager would have that to assist him.

Heard Larson respond to a question from Czeczok that the rate of the airport’s legal counsel, Dyan Ebert, is $195 an hour. Nystrom said the commission was encouraged by the county attorney and the city attorney recommended it would be appropriate for the commission to have its own representation. Larson said their was a need for consistent legal advice.

Accepted a pending grant for the abandonment of Runway 1230.

Approved the lease for Avionics.

The commission’s next regular meeting date is 9:30 a.m. March 6.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860