The Fergus Falls City Council will be entertaining a recommendation Tuesday from the Airport Advisory Committee on the hiring of a new airport manager.
Based on the Feb. 1 agenda, the council was expected to vote on a resolution that night to approve the hiring of Alexandria Aviation, a corporation with 31 years of airport management experience. Alexandria Aviation had been graded the highest of the four qualified candidates by Landrum & Brown, an airport consultant hired under a professional services agreement by the city two years ago. Kreg Anderson, who had run airport operations in Alexandria since 2018, had more actual experience as an airport manager than any of the other three candidates.
Landrum & Brown’s John DeCoster, who administered the matrix cited seven reasons for his recommendation of Alexandria Aviation in a Jan. 15 to Fergus Falls city engineer Brian Yavarow.
Even after their Jan. 25 meeting, during which the committee had unanimously recommended Alexandria Aviation, some members of the committee were asking themselves questions – not just about Alexandria Aviation or Landrum & Brown - but about the selection process they had followed.
After being made aware of these doubts, Mayor Ben Schierer recommended at the council’s Feb. 1 meeting that the committee be given an extra two weeks to consider a recommendation to the council. The matter was discussed, several council members voiced their support of the proposal and after Schierer asked for a motion, the council was unanimous in their consent.
The AAC met Monday at City Hall for the purpose of conducting interviews with the airport manager/fixed base operator candidates. They spent more than two hours on the process.
“The advisory board really appreciates the work of the consultant and everything that was laid out in looking through the proposals but really felt like the process ended up being a little bit rushed, especially in hearing from community members and hearing frustrations by some of the applicants as well,” committee chairman, Andrew Yaggie said.
Yaggie said the frustration seemed to center mainly from how the consultant may have scored some of the different areas.
“All the advisory board was looking for was a little more time to make sure the process was fair and make sure everyone was able to sit down and ask some clarified questions and really feel good about the process,” Yaggie said.
The committee will now recommend Sky Crew Services according to Yaggie, which will be operated by Stacy Stock and Alexander Habraken, the local candidates that scored second-best on Landrum & Brown’s matrix.
The City Council will make the final decision on the recommendation but as one community member who attended Monday’s interviews told committee members, “If someone doesn’t give this a 100% effort, that has their boots on the ground in Fergus Falls, is a part of the community, that field is never going to work.”
Yaggie and other members of the AAC agreed.
By breaking down the proposals Yaggie said the committee felt that getting two managers instead of one was a bargain. Another advantage Sky Crew Services offers is a pledge to be open seven days a week with at least one of the managers on site at all times. The trump card is that they call Fergus Falls home. Anderson would also be devoting part of his time to operations in Alexandria, a community 50 minutes away from Fergus Falls.
“At the end of the day airport advisory boards look at the fact that we feel it is very important to pick local first,” Yaggie said. “Of course, all of the other ventures have to add up as well.”
Yaggie was not prepared on Tuesday to comment on whether or not Alexandria Aviation is still in the hunt, nor could he say what recommendation the city council will follow on Tuesday - that of the AAC or the one Landrum & Brown Global Aviation submitted. While he supported the committee’s Stock-Habraken recommendation, he was still very complimentary of the Alexandria business.
“I would imagine if the council were to select them they would be very open to it,” Yaggie said. “I know they do a wonderful job in Alexandria and they would love the opportunity to expand so I would imagine if the council selected them they would be happy to be here.”