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The Future of a City-Run Ottumwa Regional Airport

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 11:33 PM CST
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - A 3-2 vote at Tuesday’s City Council meeting over the future of the Ottumwa Regional Airport rejected the offers of running a Fixed Base Operator through a contracted private company.

After Archangel didn’t extend its FBO contract at the airport, the vote Tuesday came down to rejecting the proposals from private companies and having the city absorb the airport.

The 3-2 vote means the city will run the airport, something City Administrator Phil Rath says is the more economically feasible.

“What it would be costing to the city was what it was looking at every year [a contracted FBO would be] losing money to the airport overall.”

The Airport Board recommended Sociable Air take the FBO contract, but the city’s math shows a plateaued net decrease in finances going with the private option.

Rath says that would likely lead to a tax levy: “Without the different terms of the agreement, it wasn’t feasible.”

But Steven Palen of Sociable Air says those numbers shouldn’t have been compared: “Those two should have never, ever, ever been in a battle with each other. Not one time.”

Instead, he believes the benefits of a privately owned FBO, like service and passion, outweigh all.

That’s something Councilmember Roe made note of: “We need to have someone out there that cares. Having people who are just out there for a 9 to 5 job is a concern.”

Rath says that all comes down to the people the city hires.

“When you hire people and you train them the right way and you have the expectation, they can get just as much passion as anyone else.” - about employment

One of those people the City’s looking at hiring is Duke Ball, an Indian Hills maintenance worker. He would head a maintenance program. With that program comes annual inspections on the planes, and flight instructions for hobbyists.

Rath hopes the program, plus lower gas prices compared to larger cities, would attract traffic into the Ottumwa airport.

“We’re hoping to build on the reputation. Having somebody with a good rapport that’s able to give services that people trust - that’s going to build that clientele list and that’s going to keep people coming to Ottumwa.”

But the City Administrator says a contracted FBO isn’t off the table for the future.

Archangel’s contract ended on Sunday. The airport is running mostly self-service, but the City Administrator expects to have things running at full capacity within a week.

He also plans to have that maintenance program begin in a few weeks.

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