Council Updated on Potential Changes to Airport Governance

Springfield City Council was briefed during their weekly Council lunch about changing governance of the airport.

City Manager Jason Gage and staff recommended to the Council to delay taking any action because of a variety of reasons including changes to LAGERS, the employee retirement system, but to continue to explore ways to change the way the airport handles operations.

Gage said that a change to the airport’s governance where it would become a “component entity”, meaning it would have more self-governance while still having the city be ultimately responsible for it, would require statutory changes to LAGERS. Gage stated that one of the major missions of the city staff was to not harm the employee retirement system.

“When you think of the legislative environment there are some topics that are safe to open up and some that cause anxiety to open up,” Gage said. “LAGERS is obviously an area that can cause anxiety when it’s opened up.”

Gage said that the environment for the required legislative changes are “not right” for this year. He said that staff was concerned about the “unintended consequences” that could take place when something major like LAGERS is brought up for changes.

Any major changes to airport governance such as a regional airport authority would also require action taken by the state legislature, which Gage also felt was not likely in the upcoming session, but said that staff had not been focused on that possibility because they were focused on the component entity option.

Gage said that a beneficial option for the airport moving forward is to have an operational review to see ways that the airport’s governing board can be more responsive for the needs of the airport within the system that is currently in place.

Gage compared the airport’s situation to a growing child, saying that the needs of a teenager is much different than the needs of a toddler, and the airport is moving from one growth level to another level. Airport staff noted to Council that passenger counts for August 2019 were 16% higher than 2018 and overall the airport’s passenger totals are up 11% over last year.

Council appeared in their Q&A time to be interested in finding ways to give the airport’s leadership more control of situations and allow them to be able to respond to immediate needs that might be too time-sensitive to bring the decision to a regular City Council meeting.

“Delegation of authority can be given from parent entities to others like in the procurement department,” Mayor McClure said. “It gives the necessary latitude.”

Staff will be conducting a look into a job classification study for the airport, with a focus on jobs that are specific to the airport, to allow the airport board to be competitive for the best employees.

Staff will continue to find more information for Council on ways they can allow more independent governance by the airport board under the current City Charter, and ways that ordinance changes can be made to allow for more flexibility by the airport leadership.

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