• 52°

Fate of airport fuel sales still uncertain

FRANKLIN

Thursday this week will be Airport Manager Jimmy Gray’s retirement date, according to a memorandum City Manager Amanda Jarratt sent to the members of Franklin’s City Council on April 18.

If the city does not find a replacement for Gray by July 1 – the date the Council’s adopted 2019-2020 budget, which will reduce the airport’s full-time staff from two employees to just one, becomes effective – the city-owned facility will potentially be left with a full-time staff of zero. As such, the city may be unable to continue selling fuel at its airport, which the Council voted to rename the “Franklin Regional Airport” in February in an effort to rebrand the facility as a regional asset.

The city manager had previously remarked to The Tidewater News in April that one airport employee would be sufficient for refueling private aircraft with aviation gas, but two would be needed to refuel larger, corporate aircraft with jet fuel, and to transfer fuel from the city’s supplier to the airport’s fuel farm.

Jarratt confirmed to the newspaper last Thursday, June 13, that the city was finishing up its posting for the position and would have it up sometime next week, this being the week of June 17-21. She added that the city has been working on putting together a plan “for the interim time period before someone is hired.”

In early April, Jarratt had initially proposed doing away with fuel sales at the airport, citing the personnel cut she had proposed. Later that month, after receiving several phone calls from concerned members of the aviation community, Jarratt informed the Council that she had devised a plan to continue fuel sales at the airport with only one full-time employee. That plan had called for the training of one of the city’s public works employees to assist Gray and eventually the airport’s new manager with refueling operations. This person would be dispatched to the airport on an as-needed basis in lieu of a second full-time employee.

When asked if this plan had been implemented, Jarratt said on Tuesday that this was “in process.”