The transition of management of the Washington Regional Airport has been “relatively smooth.”

That is the message John Nilges, Washington’s director of public services, gave the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee Monday.

The city will assume operations at the Washington Regional Airport Friday, March 1. The airport is located in Warren County off Highway 47.

Last year, the city took steps to take over airport management from Washington Aviation, which has been operating the airport since 1997.

The upcoming airport management takeover has required Washington city officials to approve a budget amendment to account for several purchases.

The city council last week approved a budget amendment for one-time expenses to purchase equipment, machinery and tools to ensure that operations run smoothly, according to Nilges.

“This will keep operations going exactly the way they are,” he added.

The council voted 7-0 to amend the budget. Councilman Jeff Mohesky was not at the meeting.

The total expenditures amount in the budget amendment is $425,000, which also includes gasoline and the salaries and benefits of one full-time, and salaries of two part-time employees.

According to Nilges, the budget amendment will carry the city through the end of the budget year, Sept. 30, and operations will be budgeted in full for the 2019-20 spending plan.

The amendment also itemized a decrease in expenditures of $45,000 for the contracted services.

Since 2013, the city has contracted with Washington Aviation for fixed rate operator services at the cost of $4,250 per month. The city also has paid Washington Aviation $3,620 monthly for lawn mowing at the airport.

Looking Ahead

According to Nilges, the city will explore “pay at the pump” so airplanes can be fueled while there is no staff at the airport. He explained that discussions are preliminary, but the goal would be for fuel to be purchased at anytime with a credit card.

Work still needs to be completed to replace seven concrete panels damaged during a striping project, he added.

Another project to repair portions of the concrete runway is slated to begin this spring. The work will require closure of the airport for about five days. 

Cut Spending

Last November, City Administrator Darren Lamb stated the city has lost an average of $34,000 annually over the past 10 years at the airport.

Lamb also stressed that the takeover of the facility by the city is only for budgetary purposes. He later told The Missourian he saw a chance to cut some spending while he was reviewing the fixed base operator agreement.

There are 36 hangars in three buildings at the Washington airport. There is a waiting list consisting of more than 15 plane owners who would like space at the airport.

On Monday, Nilges said the lease agreements are being updated to reflect the city manages the airport. 

The city will retain the full-time airport manager, Kevin Hellmann, and two part-time employees. Lamb previously said that hiring the current staff will keep the operation at the airport flowing smoothly.

The airport will fall under the city’s public services department and Hellmann will be under the direction of Nilges.

Once the management is shifted to the city, it will receive income from fuel sales and hangar rental fees. 

Included in the equipment are a 2018 tractor, a brush hog and a zero turn mower.