The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 17, 2011

Council splits on decision to allow second operator at Joplin airport

Mizzou Aviation to have competitor

JOPLIN, Mo. — Debate developed Monday night among the Joplin City Council members over a measure that could either increase general aviation services at the Joplin Regional Airport or jeopardize them.

Airport Manager Steve Stockam brought forward proposals to allow two operations at the airport, one by existing operator Mizzou Aviation and another by a startup operation to be called Alpha Air Center.

Wayne Adolphsen, owner of Mizzou Aviation, told the council that his business has been in operation for 50 years. He said that given the challenges in the aviation industry today, such as expense of operations, allowing more than one operator at the airport would be detrimental not only to his business but also could jeopardize general aviation availability at the airport.

Jeff Asbell, of Carl Junction, who wants to put in the startup operation called Alpha Air Center, said he had been trying for 27 months to get permission to set up shop. He said he plans to offer services and training for the operation of specific types of aircraft, and that he plans to attract new business to the airport.

Stockam said he had been researching for more than a year the requirements on airports to allow those operations.

Councilman Jack Golden asked if the Federal Aviation Administration requires the airport to allow more than one operator.

City Attorney Brian Head said the FAA requires that the city does not discriminate. “If someone else wants to operate, we cannot grant an exclusive franchise” to a single operator, Head told the council, as long as the operators meet requirements imposed on the operations.

Councilman Gary Shaw asked if opening the door to a second operator would mean that the city has to allow an unlimited number.

Stockam said the city would do so, as long as the operators meet the requirements. If the two operations don’t fail under the competition, Stockam said, “in the short term, the patrons are going to be excited about having options. Hopefully we would have an increase in size of the pie and not be cutting the pie into more slices.”

Councilman Michael Seibert asked who would monitor the operating standards. Stockam said the airport board and the city attorney would review the operations periodically.

Councilman Morris Glaze said he thought the council should table action because council members just received information about the proposal during the weekend, and with controversy existing between the two operators, he wanted more time to sort out the issue.

Mayor Mike Woolston said the city has a new $15 million airport terminal and a commercial airline that is doing well. “I want to make sure I understand the full impact and long-term impact on the airport” before voting,” he said.

Glaze’s motion to table the issue failed in a 4-4 vote, with one council member, Melodee Colbert-Kean, absent. Golden, Trisha Raney, Benjamin Rosenberg and Bill Scearce voted against it.

Rosenberg made a motion to approve the request.

Glaze asked why the council could not have more time to study the issue. Rosenberg told Glaze, “You were defeated. What don’t you understand?” Rosenberg said the council had the city attorney’s explanation and the airport manager’s research. “Don’t you approve of competition?”

Shaw said he did not want to approve an agreement without having more time to review the details.

The council members were told that the measures before them would only authorize the operational agreements for the companies, but it would still have to be determined whether both operators could meet the qualifications and standards. The panel voted 6-2 to authorize the Mizzou Aviation agreement.

In discussing the Alpha Air Center agreement, Golden asked what the penalty would be for allowing only one operator.

Stockam said the city risked having to pay civil penalties that could amount to 20 years worth of FAA grants that helped fund airport operations.

“I do not see any way we cannot do this, and stay in the good graces with the Missouri Department of Transportation and the FAA,” Stockam said. The panel voted 5-3 to authorize the Alpha Air agreement, with Seibert, Glaze and Woolston dissenting.

After the meeting, Stockam, asked what different services the two would offer, said Mizzou Aviation caters to jet travel and corporate customers, while Alpha Air Center wants to provide services mainly to piston aircraft and pilots.

Asked what would happen if the two operators failed as a result of any competition for business, Stockam said the city would have to take over operating general aviation services.

Cunningham Park

The City Council on Monday approved the purchase of six lots on Porter Avenue for expanding Cunningham Park to add a memorial to victims of the May 22 tornado.

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