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Madras City Council agrees to restructure Madras airport management by 2023

At their Tuesday, Sept. 28 meeting, Madras City Council members agreed to extend the current contract with Berg Air to manage the Madras Municipal Airport through June of 2022, with plans to extend the agreement through June of 2023, including a 10% bump in pay.

This delays plans to restructure airport management by about a year to 18 months.

"Which gives us a little time to plan," said Rob Berg, owner of Berg Air LLC.

The city hired Aviation Management Consulting Group to evaluate the airport operations. Consultant Jeff Kohlman described the current management model as a hybrid, sharing management duties between the city and a private company, Berg Air.

"That works OK when things are simple and you don't have high activity levels. But the airport has grown substantially over the years," says Kohlman. "An airport will get to a certain size that it just requires focused attention on airport management and focused attention on fixed base operation management."

In the simplest terms, an airport manager maintains the runways and other real estate, negotiates leases of airport property, handles community and government relations, and applies for funding to develop infrastructure.

A fixed base operator deals with pilots and aircraft: airplane fuel and maintenance, hangar rental, airplane rentals, flight instruction.

"We recommend the city internally take over the airport management so it's done by one organization and led by one individual," says Kohlman, who recommends the FBO be fully privatized. "Let private enterprise take that on because they're best at running businesses."

Based on Kohlman's recommendation, the city plans to advertise the airport manager position and separately solicit proposals from companies to run the FBO. From his experience, Kohlman says, the incumbent always has a leg up on the competition.

"Berg Air being the incumbent certainly has the qualifications to provide these services. They provided them for a number of years," notes Kohlman.

When Kohlman first proposed his recommendations at the council's Sept. 7 meeting, Berg said he expected to retire in five years. It's unclear whether he'll submit a proposal to continue operating the airport past 2023. Attempts to reach Berg were unsuccessful.

The request for proposal process, Kohlman says, helps the city define the type, level and quality of services it wants the FBO to provide.

"The airport is a valuable asset to this community," says City Administrator Gus Burril, "and we acknowledge the Berg family's commitment to helping create what we have today. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this important resource."


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