Officials consider changes in airport manager position

Published 5:00 am Friday, April 3, 2009

City officials are considering cutting the Brookhaven-LincolnCounty Airport’s managerial position down to a part-time job,saving payroll funds and allowing the facility’s automated featuresto run in a self-service capacity.

Director of Public Works Steve Moreton said the city wouldmonitor the airport’s operations over the next week with streetdepartment employee Billy Case at the helm to determine if apart-time position can handle the job or if a new, full-timeemployee should be hired to the position.

Case took over as an interim airport manager Wednesday afterformer manager Clifford Britt resigned by telephone following aspecial-called aldermen meeting Tuesday night.

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“If it works out, Billy may take on those duties,” Moreton said.”Mr. Britt was full-time, and he did a great job, but we’re justtrying to save money. The fuel system is run by credit cards, likea self-service station.”

Before Britt resigned, his position at the airport paid $12.17per hour, making it a $25,000 per year occupation. Aldermen willhave the option of cutting the job’s pay rate and hours when theychoose a new manager, a discussion that will likely begin Tuesdaynight in the first meeting of April.

Moreton said an employee would still be needed to check theoperation of the airport’s systems and write reports and orderforms, but most of the airport can take care of itself. Thefacility’s weather information transmitter operates automatically,and the fuel terminal can be used via credit card by visitingpilots.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes said there was a “good bit”of discussion on making the airport manager position part-time atTuesday’s meeting, but the discussion is still premature. If theposition is changed to part-time, Estes said she didn’t believe thehours would be cut evenly in half, and the issue of pay has not yetbeen discussed.

“I’d be anxious to hear more input about if a part-time positionis sufficient to cover what needs doing there,” she said. “I thinkthere’s a feeling Mr. Case can handle it right now. He has beenthere before when Mr. Britt was out with health issues, so he’s notgreen.”

Alderman at large Les Bumgarner said a part-time employee hasmanaged the airport in the past, but aldermen would not continuewith a part-time position if the employee were unable to accomplishall the necessary duties.

“There’s an opinion we don’t need a full-time, there’s also anopinion that you do,” he said. “I think the pilots think we need afull-time employee, the people who use the airport.”

Airport advisory board member Dr. Don Doty he did not now if apart-time employee would be able to handle all the duties requiredof the airport manager, saying “there’s a lot of stuff you don’tsee that goes on.” More importantly to Doty, he said the airportmanager is an important position for greeting Brookhaven’svisitors.

“It really is an ambassador position,” he said. “Some of thesepeople (flying into Brookhaven), you don’t know how many them ownbusinesses and will just come in unannounced and look at a town torelocate to. If there’s nobody there and it’s not a maintainedairport, they’ll say, ‘I don’t think I want to relocate my businesshere.'”

Airport advisory board chairman Paul Barnett said his boardwould analyze the daily and annual operating expenditures of theairport and make a recommendation to the city when called upon bythe aldermen.

He had no opinion on the airport manager’s position’srequirements, but did say several of the airport manager’s duties”ought to be performed on a weekly basis.”

“There are surrounding airports of like size that are, for allpractical purposes, self-serve airports,” Barnett said. “There’sstill some activities that must be conducted by human beings, liketesting the fuel system, monitoring its levels and making sure therunway lighting and communication systems are working.”