Soft landing: Airport budget concerns allayed

Newly designed jet becomes customer
Fri, 03/23/2018 - 8:45am

    Wiscasset Municipal Airport’s interim manager Rick Tetrev was relieved March 22 to learn the airport’s budget is intact. He and the Airport Advisory Committee wondered one day earlier if part of the budget for the fiscal year ending June 30 was going or had gone away due to cuts they understood had been planned. So they were also wondering how the department would pay fuel and other bills the last quarter of the fiscal year.

    Members predicted that night, plane fuel the airport sells would run out in May if the airport could no longer buy it; and they said that could cost the airport customers if they couldn’t fuel up there. However, neither the fuel funding nor airport operations are in jeopardy, according to town officials Tetrev and the Wiscasset Newspaper followed up with the next day. Tetrev told the committee he would. His monthly budget reports from the town kept showing it was intact, so the panel and Tetrev hoped that was the case, and it was.

    Town Manager Marian Anderson said in a phone interview, she came up with a list of more than $400,000 in possible cuts at selectmen’s request months ago, but the board never adopted the list. So none of the departments saw those cuts, including the $20,000 the airport would have lost, she said. The airport’s budget is the same $254,697 voters passed last June; and selectmen have cut nothing from the airport’s proposed, flat budget for next year, Anderson added.

    ”Very relieved ... I’m happy,” Tetrev said in a phone interview after his check with the town.

    The airport is nearly self-sustaining, with yearly revenues topping $200,000, Anderson said. Plus it brings in property taxes on the hangars and excise taxes on planes, she said.

    Tetrev, a retired Naval commander, confirmed to the committee he expects Anderson will propose to selectmen soon to keep him on as manager and drop the interim from his title. Committee members praised his work since taking over after Frank Costa resigned last September. Tetrev served as airport supervisor beginning in 2015.

    Tetrev said a Pilatus PC-24 jet has been fueling up and flying out of Wiscasset to Boca Raton and elsewhere, buying hundreds of gallons of fuel. Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland produced the new line of business jet that can land and take off in 2,600 feet, Tetrev said. “This was impressive.”

    The committee and Tetrev continued drafting airport rules. They planned to see how other airports approach refusing customers due to concerns they are drunk or show other signs they shouldn’t be piloting then.

    Chairman Steve Williams said Maine Aeronautics Association’s annual chili cook-off and pilot safety training had about 75 people, but not as much chili as usual so pizza was ordered. “People cleaned up the pizza and left the chili,” he said.

    The committee meets next at 5 p.m. April 25 at the airport on Chewonki Neck Road.