Committee recommends hiring airport manager nominee; airport restaurant to stay closed

A Payson couple has withdrawn a request to lease space inside the Quincy Regional Airport terminal for a restaurant. The restaurant has been closed for more than two years. (H-W File Photo)
Posted: Sep. 5, 2013 11:15 am Updated: Sep. 19, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Mayor Kyle Moore's choice to manage the Quincy Regional Airport has been given the green light by the Aeronautics Committee.

Committee members voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend the hiring of Jarred Hester as airport manager. The City Council will take up the recommendation Monday night, which could put a full-time manager at the airport for the first time since 2009.

An anticipated vote by the council on Aug. 12 was delayed because some aldermen on the Aeronautics Committee said they weren't consulted before Hester's nomination was announced. Some aldermen also questioned the need for a full-time manager.

However, a representative of the Federal Aviation Administration met with the committee in closed session last month and outlined why the agency believed the airport would be served better with a full-time manager.

"We had the gentleman from the FAA come down and kind of outline what they had been telling us behind the scenes," Moore said. "So they could see our rationale behind us and where we were coming from on that."

The FAA had identified several violations found during a December 2012 inspection, including an out-of-date airport certification manual, maintenance personnel failing to complete training, and failing to have aircraft rescue and firefighting personnel train in a live-fire drill during the previous 12 months.

In a May 29 letter to the city, Heather Monaghan-Manna, an airport certification safety inspector for the Great Lakes Airports Division of the FAA, said the "lack of adequate airport management oversight and sufficient resources was apparent" leading up to the December inspection.

Read the letter here.

The FAA cautioned the city that inadequate staffing levels could create "significant challenges and an inability to ensure compliance with the regulation."

Quincy Regional was one of only a few smaller airports in the Great Lakes Region to not have a full-time manager. Moore expects a full-time manager will eliminate those issues.

"Essentially, 2009 was the last time we had a full-time airport manager and we received, a year later, the Airport of the Year award for the services and the job that was done," Moore said. "Since we've went to having part-time management out there, there's been a drastic decline in what the FAA has seen in our performance out there."

The 34-year-old Hester was the training manager and safety coordinator at Westermeyer Industries in Bluffs when Moore announced his hiring Aug. 9.

Moore said Hester was selected from a field of more than 20 applicants because of his aeronautics background and vision for the airport.

"Mr. Hester is somebody who has a passion for the airport," Moore said. "He had a PowerPoint presentation ready to go last night if anybody had any questions on his vision for the airport and what he wanted to accomplish. I think the airport will be well-served by having Mr. Hester serve as the manager."

Marty Stegeman, director of Central Services and the Quincy Transit Lines, has served as the interim airport director since May, when City Engineer Jeff Steinkamp, who had managed the airport on a part-time basis since February 2012, was not retained by the Moore administration.

The airport currently has three full-time employees who operate and maintain the city-owned buildings and infrastructure at the 1,000-acre site. The airport also has an office administrator.

If approved by the council, Hester will receive a starting salary of $53,811.

The airport had 10,120 boardings in 2012 making it eligible to receive $1 million in federal improvement grants. The 10,000-threshold triggers that increased federal funding.

The Aeronautics Committee learned Wednesday night that a Payson couple has withdrawn a request to lease space inside the Quincy Regional Airport terminal for a restaurant.

Roy and Penny Noble said last week they planned to open Blue Skys Family Restaurant as early as Sept. 10. However, their lease request was tabled Monday night by the City Council, and they told Mayor Kyle Moore on Wednesday that they have opted instead to sign a new lease at the site of the restaurant they previously operated, the Payson Park View Restaurant.

The airport restaurant space has been vacant for more than two years. Moore said he expects the city will continue to seek a restaurant operator.