At the recent public meeting discussing the future of the Adirondack Regional Airport, one of the commenters asked about the necessity of filling an assistant airport manager position. While there were many comments that we were unable to address due to time constraints, I'd like to take the time to briefly respond to this comment.
First, this is an issue that the airport administration and the Harrietstown town board have looked at several times, going back to before I started here four years ago. It has been researched and evaluated for need and benefit. Employment issues including civil service, scope of employment, job limitations and safety are some of the component parts that have been examined.
Every airport is unique, and each one is operated differently. Some are run by airport authorities. Some are run by towns, cities or counties. Some are privately run, and others may be run by some other group or organization. The employees of an airport perform tasks such as runway inspections, plowing, mowing, maintaining lighting, performing airport rescue and firefighting (ARFF) duties as well as a variety of other tasks to ensure compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations and Transportation Security Administration regulations.
In addition to the duties of running the airport, many airports have what is called a fixed-base operator or FBO. The FBO is basically an operation based on an airport providing services to aircraft such as fueling, parking and de-icing aircraft. FBOs are more commonly run by a private company. Those FBOs that are run by a local form of government are usually on a smaller scale than that of Adirondack Regional Airport. Common duties of an FBO employee include fueling, deicing, towing, marshaling, loading-unloading luggage, billing and more.
There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to running the FBO vs. leasing its operation out to a private company. One of the benefits of Harrietstown also running the FBO is that employees can be cross-utilized for airport duties as well as FBO duties. Instead of hiring one individual to oversee the airport and another to oversee the FBO, Adirondack Regional Airport has an airport manager and an assistant airport manager to oversee both. This means the manager can focus on airport-related activities and duties while the assistant manager can focus more on FBO duties. However, both the manager and assistant manager are also cross-trained so they can step in for each other when necessary.
In addition to assisting line service workers with their duties and ensuring employees are performing all their tasks; airport management also has a variety of other tasks. Airport management is responsible for marketing the airport, working with the town board to prepare budgets, handling customer complaints and special requests, overseeing capital projects, working with the town board and consultants to research and acquire grants, establishing and maintaining leases with tenants, training employees, scheduling employees and responding to aircraft emergencies as well as overseeing and ensuring compliance with security regulations. There are far too many duties to specifically list each one. The need in this situation is that there are too many duties for one individual to effectively oversee all of them.
Additionally, the airport operates seven days a week and 365 days a year. Regulations stipulate that a qualified individual must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is unrealistic to believe that one individual can meet this requirement alone.
The suggestion has been made that a line service worker should act as manager and receive a stipend for those times that the manager is unavailable. It was noted earlier that both management and the town board has looked at the elements of this possibility. In addition to the previously mentioned considerations, this would not allow the Adirondack Regional Airport the opportunity to hire and train a more qualified backup to the airport manager. It would require extensive training for the selected line service worker to include additional emergency response training, additional security training, as well as additional training on FAA regulations.
The assistant airport manager also assists line service workers during busy times or as necessary. Without this position, an additional line service worker position would have to be filled to ensure the airport has adequate coverage and can satisfy regulations.
Currently this vacancy is being filled with overtime as well as a large increase in workload for the airport manager. Over the long run, the increased workload would likely equate to an even higher level of manager turnover due to stress and burnout. It is only possible to operate as we are currently because it is the airport's slow season and we had a very low snowfall this season.
We have studied the cost factor and the difference in pay between a line service worker and an assistant airport manager. When the overtime for an assistant airport manager is factored in, the cost differential between the line service worker and the assistant manager is more but not much, and there is no return for dollars paid on the administrative, backup and safety issues. The benefits of hiring an assistant manager more than make up for this difference in cost.
Corey Hurwitch is the manager of the Adirondack Regional Airport in Lake Clear, which is owned and run by the town of Harrietstown.