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Crow Wing County Board hears Ed Hall airport proposal

Ed Hall told the Crow Wing County Board he could utilize his experience to operate the airport “better, faster and cheaper” on a contracted basis.

Hall spoke to commissioners Tuesday offering to manage the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport for a flat fee of $55,000 without benefits. Hall said he’d accept a management contract through his company, Crash Scene Recon, for three years with an option for five years if that is what the airport owners, the county and the city of Brainerd, want.

Hall said he’s studied the Brainerd lakes airport for two years and noted he has more than 40 years of experience in aviation — military, commercial and civil.

“The position of airport manager is highly overrated and overpaid for the results obtained,” Hall said.

Hall presented a four-page report to the board with seven goals. The list included a complete operational audit and approaching Vision Air out of Georgia with the idea of having direct flights between Brainerd and points south such as Florida. Hall said he’d establish a comprehensive review and overhaul of maintenance records and compliance procedures.

Former Airport Manager Steve Sievek was reassigned to a temporary post before his upcoming retirement in June after the airport commission addressed the airport’s failure to ensure the required inspection and certification of de-icing equipment, which led to a Nov. 19 Delta jet flight cancellation.

Other goals Hall listed included more communication with the council and the board, lobbying Congress and the state Legislature to obtain radar coverage here, instituting a culture of safety and the leadership role an effective airport manager should take, ethics and integrity, preparing for the future with five, 10 and 20 year growth plans, and monitoring the strategic plan.

Hall said the airport needed to have a complete operational audit and institute a reorganization plan. Hall described the plan at the airport now as rather superficial. He said the airport was a jewel of the area but wasn’t being marketed that way. The airport also needs an understandable procedural manual, Hall said.

“You are persistent, I’ll give you that,” said Commissioner Paul Thiede.

Hall was before the board in 2010 asking to be considered for appointment to the airport commission. Thiede thanked Hall for his work on the proposal.

Thiede asked how he should balance Hall’s plan with the issue of self-interest and he questioned whether the “point to point” flights from Brainerd to other locations hadn’t been considered by the airport previously. Hall said he didn’t have a connection with Vision Air but sees an opportunity there and would like to approach them from a position of authority. Hall noted his marketing background as a Marine Corps recruiter.

“I know how it works and I have an ability to do it,” Hall said.

Hall offered to write the manuals, especially the safety manual and help the new manager. Hall said by hiring him on this contract basis, the county and city could save more than $150,000. The pay justification for the airport manager is flawed, Hall said. The airport 2011 budget set aside $79,790 for the airport manager wages not including benefits.

Even if he wasn’t the choice, Hall suggested the county look at hiring a manager on a contract basis, saying the job doesn’t warrant the pay it comes with now.

Thiede questioned how the airport has survived all this time if all the issues Hall raises are there along with the opportunities Hall sees that the airport hasn’t realized. Hall said the airport commission can’t physically do it all in the monthly meeting. The majority are not compensated, he said. That is something Hall said should change.

“You can’t get people to do something for free,” Hall said. “My question in my mind is why would somebody do that with no pay. ... I’m afraid it comes to ego versus result. And when I say things like that I know it’s very controversial. I step on people’s toes. But this is my observation.”

If people are compensated then the airport commission will draw from people who have to give up working hours to participate, Hall said.

Board Chairman Doug Houge said the board appreciated Hall’s input on a topic that will be ongoing.

Hall said: “That’s what I wanted to do was give you one more thing to think about.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter @Dispatchbizbuzz.

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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