MONTROSE – Few details are being released regarding the current request for a proposal about a second, fixed-base operator at the Montrose Regional Airport. But county officials say that once the county is able to vet and possibly decide on a new FBO, it will be done so in a public arena.
The current request for a proposal was a topic of discussion and many questions during Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Montrose Regional Airport Advisory Board.
“We have received some proposals and we have a review committee assessing those proposals,” Lloyd Arnold, director of aviation at Montrose Regional Airport, told members of the advisory board on Tuesday.
Arnold, along with County Manager Rick Eckert, Road and Bridge Fleet Manager Dave Laursen, and County Budget Manager Lanny Paulson, sits on the committee tasked with reviewing the FBO proposals.
“We have a review committee to assess the proposals and we met today,” Arnold said. “To that, we hope to move forward as fast as we can. What we are doing is putting together spreadsheets and a matrix comparing the various proposals. This committee is not going to make a recommendation to the Board [of County Commissioners]; we are putting together and reviewing the information so the BOCC can look at all [of it] in this format.”
One member of the public in attendance at the meeting asked how many proposals the committee is currently reviewing. Arnold said he was not at liberty to disclose that information.
“We haven’t interviewed anyone yet,” Arnold said. “We are going through the proposals right now. Part of what we are looking at is taking a look at their business model. The reason in my mind – why we can’t release those proposals to the public – is the county is going to have to negotiate with them. You can’t negotiate with Company A when they have the proposal of Company B. It weakens our position and undermines our ability to negotiate if we need to do so.”
“I understand you don’t have to give names, but a number would be nice,” Airport Advisory Board Chairman Bill Swartz said later, adding that although “we knew for a fact there were six applicants for this FBO,” he still doesn’t understand why how many of those that “really followed through with the application process” isn’t public knowledge.
Commissioner Gary Ellis, who was in attendance at Tuesday evening’s meeting, said he understands Swartz’s concerns, and that there are “philosophical differences” within the county regarding how much information can be released at this time.
“We have been getting legal counsel on this. To me, the whole issue is transparency without compromising the process,” Ellis said. “I am struggling with this personally about what we should and shouldn’t release. It is a fair question.”
Ellis then referred to information posted on the Montrose County’s website on Nov. 22 that addresses some misconceptions about the current FBO request-for-proposal process. After the review committee assembles their findings, they will present them to the commissioners in a posted public meeting as required by law. At that time, according to the information posted online, the commissioners will engage in “a public, deliberative process to make a decision whether to award a second FBO the opportunity to operate on the airport.”
The information on the website also stated that Montrose County would like to clarify a few key points regarding the process:
• This consideration was a direct result of requests from private businesses looking to create a second FBO at the airport;
• A RFP is not a formal bid. Rather, it is a format for a proposal to gauge interest and ensure that all proposals meet the defined minimum standards as outlined in the RFP;
• If a decision is made to award a second FBO, it will be done at a posted BOCC meeting; and
• Please remember that the BOCC is not involved in the initial proposal process.
“I want to be very clear, we did not solicit these requests,” Ellis said. “They came to us. When we can be transparent, we need to be transparent. When it is possible on whatever we can be transparent on, we need to give substance. The final decision on this FBO will take place in the public arena.”
Airport Advisory Boardmember Pat Blackwelder questioned whether or not the Montrose Regional Airport would even be able to support a second FBO.
“I don’t see how a second FBO can make it with the economy and aircraft the way they are today,” Blackwelder said. “I am not arguing that there shouldn’t be two. I just don’t see how you can support two. There is a question mark there.”
Airport Advisory Boardmember Bob Nicholson echoed Blackwelder’s question.
“I share the question about ‘Do we need another one,’” Nicholson said. “I don’t profess to know that answer.”
Arnold said he’d recently attended a Boyd Aviation forecasting summit where he learned that general aviation jet traffic “is going to explode” in the near future.
“Maybe they are looking at that and other factors we aren’t looking at,” Arnold said.
Anyone who wishes to discuss the FBO matter with their elected officials is encouraged to visit montrosecounty.net/index.aspx?nid=172. To view a copy of the RFP and its addendums, go to visit MontroseCounty.net.