Staff changes on horizon for Aspen airport |

Staff changes on horizon for Aspen airport

With potential major changes on the horizon for Aspen Pitkin-County Airport, the facility is eyeing an organizational restructure of its staff.

At a work session Tuesday, county commissioners blessed Aviation Director John Kinney’s plans to cross-train employees so they can work in various departments and also create three new positions: an executive office manager, a manager of planning and development and a controller in revenue management.

All told, the airport will see its full-time staff increase from 25 to 27, according to a memo from Kinney to county commissioners.

The organizational change won’t come at a cost, Kinney said, because he anticipates a $650,000 reduction in consultant fees.

For instance, the manager of planning and development will work with the Federal Aviation Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Security Administration as talks continue about reconfiguring the runway and building a new terminal. Previously, those roles had been mostly outsourced.

The airport expansion plans still are subject to county and federal approval and a series of studies, including an environmental assessment.

“We are undertaking a very large planning effort,” Kinney told commissioners, noting the airport will need a full-time staff member to regularly work with the federal agencies.

At the same time, the county has been conducting ongoing community outreach efforts about changes to the airport.

In September, county commissioners approved an airport layout plan for the construction of a new terminal up to 80,000 square feet, a runway upgrade to accommodate larger aircraft, and new above-ground parking. It comes with an estimated cost of $145.9 million that the FAA would mostly cover, county officials have said.

The terminals being considered include a single-story terminal, split-level terminal, nested terminal and two-story terminal.

County commissioners are scheduled to whittle that number down to two at a Dec. 8 conference, when they also will review public feedback. The two final terminal preferences would be subject to FAA approval and an environmental assessment that would be funded through federal grants.

In the meantime, other airport administrative employees must remain focused on customer service, Kinney and County Manager Jon Peacock said.

Kinney noted the challenges in his memo to commissioners.

“Compounding this effort is the increased need to manage and deliver an optimum passenger/customer experience to an airport terminal that is antiquated, with flights that are regularly canceled or diverted. Increased passenger levels and excessive amounts of bags from diverted flights have required a new level of customer service by airport staff in an effort to protect brand.”

Kinney told commissioners he plans to advertise the new positions within three to four weeks. Commissioners reminded him the positions could be tough to fill because of local housing difficulties.

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