Airport commission: Preliminary budget proposes staff changes

The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport commission Thursday morning got its first look at the airport's 2018 preliminary budget. The budget includes salary increases for the airport secretary as well as the four full-time aircraft rescue and firefigh...

Photographs of and from planes - through aerial photograph - decorate the walls at the airport.
A sign in the terminal of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport welcomes travelers in this file photo.

The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport commission Thursday morning got its first look at the airport's 2018 preliminary budget.

The budget includes salary increases for the airport secretary as well as the four full-time aircraft rescue and firefighting, or ARFF, employees. It also includes the hiring of a part-time custodial employee at a rate of about $12 per hour.

The reason for the salary increase for ARFF employees is to bring the salaries more in line with those of ARFF employees at other airports, airport director Steve Wright said, as well as firefighter salaries in the city of Brainerd. The position is specialized and requires a lot of training, he said, so it makes sense for the salary to be comparable to similar positions.

"To have that salary be lower than another position within the community is somewhat tough," Wright said.

Three of the four ARFF employees have been with the airport for a long time, Wright said. Increasing the salary for the position makes it attractive for someone who's looking to come to Brainerd for experience before moving onto a bigger position, he said.


The ARFF employees have a wealth of specialized training, commission member Jeff Czeczok said, and do a lot of equipment repairs and maintenance in-house, which saves money.

"I think it's just overdue that we bring them in line with what the city workers are getting paid," Czeczok said.

Currently, the ARFF employees spend about four hours each night doing custodial work, Wright said. Hiring a part-time custodian gives the ARFF staff more time to focus on safety and security at the airport, he said.

"I see it as a big benefit," Wright said.

When researching this idea, Wright said he looked at possibly contracting with a company to provide custodial services. These contracts were almost double the cost of hiring a part-time employee, he said. The airport already has custodial supplies, he said, so there won't be a budget change there. The part-time employee will not receive benefits.

If the airport finds the right person for this part-time custodial position, maybe the person could slowly get trained on ARFF operations, commission member Marty Johnson said.

Commission member Trudi Amundson said she was in favor of the new part-time custodial position. The ARFF employees are highly trained, she said, and can be doing other things instead of custodial work.

"I'm really in favor of this, I have been for a long time," Amundson said.


The budget features an overall increase of 1.85 percent from the 2017 budget, for a total of $1,090,977. The budget doesn't include an increase in the annual contributions from the city of Brainerd and Crow Wing County, Wright said. It is also balanced between revenues and expenses.

The airport is required to submit a preliminary budget to the city of Brainerd and Crow Wing County by Aug. 1, he said. The commission unanimously approved the 2018 preliminary budget.

In other business, the commission:

Welcomed new commissioner Czeczok to the commission. He occupies the seat previously held by Andy Larson, as one of the city of Brainerd's two appointees to the commission.

Because Larson served as chair, the commission unanimously approved appointing vice chair Don Jacobson as the new chair. He was the only one nominated for chair, to his disappointment.

"Are there any other nominations, please?" Jacobson asked.

Commission member Rachel Reabe Nystrom nominated Amundson for vice chair, while Czeczok nominated commission member Marty Johnson. Instead of voting for a vice chair, Jacobson asked if either nominee wanted to withdraw. Amundson quickly replied, saying she would withdraw from consideration. The commission then unanimously appointed Johnson as vice chair.

The board also unanimously approved appointing Czeczok to Larson's two committee appointments, on the operations committee and the leases committee. Czeczok noted he served on both the committees during a previous stint on the airport commission. As part of the same motion, the commission appointed Jacobson as an ex officio member of each committee. He will only attend a committee meeting if a regular committee member cannot attend. If he did attend a committee meeting with all three committee members present, it would trigger a quorum of the full commission, requiring a special commission meeting to be called.

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