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North Adams Airport Commission Continues Manager Search
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
02:26AM / Friday, September 24, 2021
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Airport Commission will consider two finalists for manager of Harriman & West Airport.
 
The commission on Tuesday heard from city Administrative Officer and interim Airport Manager Angeline Ellison about the continued manager search. She said she found two possible candidates after a series of interviews.
 
"We did go through the resumes, and we did have one that came with the initial batch that was worth looking at," she said. "The rest were unfit. Most of them were not strong candidates and most of them were not in the actual field at all."
 
She said another followup application did come in that she thought the commission should consider. 
 
The search has been ongoing since longtime part-time manager Bill Greenwald left. The city did have difficulty finding qualified candidates and did consider merging the position with a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) to manage the airport.
 
The commission agreed to meet with the two candidates individually to avoid a quorum and to review their resumes. 
 
New Commissioner Dan Caplinger said he wanted the final interview process to be public.
 
"I do think that having as much of the final part of the process public in an open meeting makes sense," he said. 
 
Ellison also touched on the FBO and said the one person the committee did talk to withdrew from consideration because a previous iteration of the commission did not want to hand over all fuel control to the FBO. She said controlling fuel sales has a sizable financial benefit.
 
She said they may have to reconsider this demand in future requests for proposals.
 
She added that another proposal has come across her desk that she has yet to review.
 
The FBO and the airport manager position are connected and the commission suggested focusing on the manager position before going further with the stalled FBO process. 
 
Attendee and pilot Mike Milazzo said he preferred to have an independent airport manager not tied into an FBO.
 
"Over the years, we had people who were not licensed airport managers, but they did have the city's best interest at heart," he said. 
 
In other business, the commission did temporarily extend Delftree Mushroom Co.'s nonaviation business waiver to operate at the airport. 
 
Greenwald, who also owns the mushroom cultivation business, said the waiver covers a small office and a computer he uses to run his business. He said the office is in a private hangar he owns with Joseph Thompson and Francis Waterman.
 
"If I was running a motorcycle repair shop in there, yeah, that would impact aviation use if someone wanted to use the hangar for aviation use," he said. "In this case, it is just a computer in a small office. It is not displacing any sort of aviation business nor do we have any requirement to rent the space at all."
 
The waiver expired in July.
 
Milazzo felt Greenwald's use was absolutely fine but did want the commission to be aware of possible future nonaviation uses.
 
"It could be a slippery slope and where do you draw that line with nonairport use at the airport?" he asked. 
 
There was discussion over whether the commission even had to extend a waiver to Greenwald because the user does not impact typical airport use virtually at all.
 
Attendee, pilot, and former commissioner Trevor Gilman cited an Federal Aviation Administration ruling from 2016 that indicated that if a use does not hinder aviation use, a waiver is not needed. 
 
"It should not require a waiver," he said. "I know it may be easier just to approve a waiver, but if there is any discussion on not granting the waiver I don't think it is necessary."
 
The commissioners were in agreement but wanted to review the FAA ruling Gilman mentioned. They agreed to extend the waiver until the end of October when they will meet again.
 
The commission tabled a discussion on the draft Operating Rules and Regulations and Minimum Standards as well as a fee review.
 
Currently, the airport only has minimum standards and no rules or regulations.
 
"We wanted to do this to give the city a little backbone. More than just 'this is the way we have always done it,'" Ellison said. "It is just more consistent across the board." 
 
Gilman, who reviewed the draft, asked that the commission delay any vote noting that the draft appeared to be an amalgamation of regulations from other airports that may not fit North Adams.
 
"This document seems to be copied and pasted ... and there are things that don't apply to North Adams," he said. "I think we need to have a  deeper discussion and not just approve something that may just work somewhere else."
 
Ellison agreed and said there is still a lengthy review process to go through. She recommended forming a citizen committee to review the document.
 
"I think this is a daunting task for the three of you to review so if you have a committee where that is their only focus instead of everything else that happens at the airport that will be good," she said.
 
Caplinger, who will serve as the committee member on this citizen committee, agreed and thought a permanent citizen committee could be an asset to the airport.  
 
The committee will have three to five members. 
 
The commission also heard about the draft master plan that will now go through an amendment process. 
 
Earlier this month, the commission held a public input meeting. Some of this input will be included in the draft that the committee will review at a later date.
 
The commission was reorganized. Caplinger will serve as chairman, Dean Bullett will serve as vice chairman and Kevin Morandi will continue to serve as secretary.
 
They also agreed to move their meetings later in the evening. Typically the commission has met at 4:15 p.m. but they felt a later starting time of 6:30 p.m. would allow for more public input as it is outside of the normal work hours.
 
There was a concern that their meetings would butt up against City Council on Tuesdays, but it was noted that they eventually want to hold their meetings in the new airport administrative building.
 
"It is brand new and it would be nice to actually be able to use that building," Morandi said.
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