City preparing to take over airport's operation on July 1

The city of Hannibal will officially take over operation of the community's airport on July 1.

The effects of this change were discussed during Thursday morning's meeting of the airport advisory board.

Barron Aviation and Flight Services has overseen the airport for the city since May 2008 when the city council approved an initial three-year contract. The 11-year relationship with Barron Aviation is being terminated in a move to save revenue.

"We had to make several cuts this year on our budget," said Hannibal Director of Finance Karen Burditt. "This was one area we had to look at."

The city will see a net savings of $43,899 by using part-time city staff to man the airport and by pocketing fuel sales revenue, according to a budget letter provided the city council by Burditt.

The loss of Barron Aviation and the services it provided will have a negative effect on the airport said George Walley, a member of the airport board.

"I think potentially we are taking a big step backwards. From a professional aviation point of view it's a step backwards," he said. "Maybe it's just a momentary step backwards. I hope so for the future of the airport."

Burditt disputed Walley's airport assessment.

"I don't think it's a step backwards. The airport is very important to us," she said. "We are taking a greater interest and involvement in it."

Board member Dick Rupp is took the city's decision to let Barron Aviation leave in stride.

"I am not going to condemn the city for doing it," he said. "I hate to see Barron Aviation leave, but that is the way it's going to be. We made it through a transition before (Barron Aviation arrived) and we will again. It will just take a little time."

Board member Greg Baugher is disappointed that Barron Aviation is departing.

"I'm sorry it has turned out the way it is. It's unfortunate we have to make this change," he said.

Mike Barron, owner of Barron Aviation and Flight Services, says the city will have its hands full, especially at the outset.

"There is infinitely more things involved with running the airport, keeping it going smoothly and avoiding FAA fines which can be substantial. There is a lot more to it than mowing the grass and plowing the runway," he said. "It is going to be a huge learning curve and a liability for the community while this is going on, at least in the transition until people figure out what has to be figured out."

danny.henley@courierpost.com