Lehigh Valley International Airport is headed for new management, the Express-Times is reporting.
The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority board of governors voted 12-1 today to hire AFCO AvPORTS Management LLC, a Dulles, VA firm that specializes in managing airports for a two-year contract starting at $325,000 next year.
The authority also manages in Forks Township and Queen City Airport in Allentown.
The contract also calls for LNAA to pay the $142,000 annual salary for an onsite manager who will arrive here next month.
All told, yearly management costs will fall just under $500,000.
The agreement fills a void atop LVIA, which has had a vacancy at executive director since George Doughty resigned last August.
“They bring a whole host of services and a great deal of expertise,” LNAA chairman David Haines said of AFCO. “We’re certainly looking forward to having them as a partner for LVIA and the three-airport system.”
Board consensus is that LVIA is not reaching its full potential and needs a firm to thoroughly review and jumpstart operations. AFCO is expected to submit an action plan providing recommendations for the future of LVIA by December. AFCO CEO Ozzie Moore said the firm is not ready to discuss specifics, but its overall philosophy balances cost control while seeking revenue increases.
Moore said AFCO is determined to “improve the quality of service and bottom line for the airport.” The firm manages 14 regional airports, including facilities in Albany and Atlantic City. It was the lone firm to submit a request to manage LVIA earlier this year when the authority solicited proposals.
As part of the agreement, Charles Everett, a manager at the Federal Aviation Administration who previously helped manage Syracuse Hancock International Airport, will lead operations here. Everett starts work Sept. 9. LNAA will pay AFCO $85,089 for the rest of the year so the firm can familiarize itself with local operations.
That money includes Everett’s salary for the next few months. AFCO will be paid $325,000 next year and $334,750 in 2013, or a 3 percent increase. After 2013, the board could renew its contract with AFCO or go another route.
Board member Cindy Feinberg, who had recommended the authority consider hiring an individual director instead, was the lone dissenter. New board member Dean Browning abstained.
For now, Skip Fairchild, director of public safety and the authority’s acting executive director, will continue his interim role through Dec. 31 while AFCO transitions here. The board agreed to pay Fairchild an additional $1,000 a month for the rest of the year — atop the extra $2,500 a month he was receiving to handle both roles. Fairchild was named to the interim job in March when Larry Krauter, Doughty's deputy, left to run Spokane International Airport in Washington state. Fairchild will return exclusively to his job as public safety director on Jan. 1. That post pays $85,000 a year.