Ground transportation was a big topic during the February meeting of the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport Board as the members discussed offering rental cars, courtesy cars, and purchasing a new Jet A fuel truck.
“Our current Jet A truck is becoming unreliable due to its age,” airport manager Dean Selby said. “This truck many times is not shut off all day and is the source of the majority of sales on this airport.”
Selby asked the board to move up the purchase of a new truck that was in the capital plan for the next fiscal year because of a combination of the issues they are having with the truck and a boost in fuel sales over the past year.
“We almost lost a 1200-gallon fuel sale last month when we were having some problems with the truck,” he told the board.
Selby said it will only take one time of not being able to transport fuel to a plane for the airport to lose a significant amount of business.
“If we lose a sale like that, they are not coming back, and they are probably telling their friends that we aren’t able to provide necessary services,” he said.
Selby told the board he obtained quotes, as they had requested last month, for the cost of repairing the truck they are now using. However, the quote of $141,000 to repair the truck they purchased used 10 years ago was high in comparison to purchasing a completely new truck that Selby estimates would last the airport for 20 years for the price of $188,300.
“We have been setting aside money for capital expenditures, such as this, so the cost of the purchase will be out of our capital reserve account that was generated from profits off fuel sales. We cannot afford to be without a dependable way of providing jet fuel. Failure to have this service available just once could cost a customer for life,” Selby said and suggested the old truck be kept on premises and maintained for use in the case of an emergency or when the new truck is being serviced. “As we grow, pilots and the companies they fly for are expecting an increased level of attention that in turn creates more growth. We have managed to keep the momentum growing, which helps us see new economic impact records for this airport.”
Selby also told the board he looked into the option of leasing a truck but that over a seven-year time they would pay $243,000, approximately one-and-half times the cost of purchasing a new truck, leading the board to unanimously vote to approve purchasing the truck outright.
Another topic that brought about some discussion and decisions for the board was that of rental cars.
“We are seeing a huge increase in the number of rental cars we are sending out,” Selby said, but then said the increase has also caused some availability issues. “Many times, we do not have cars available from the local rental car companies due to how late in the day people call and request them.”
Selby informed the board he is exploring options for having rental cars available at the airport rather than having to obtain them from an offsite lot and told the board the popular rental company, Enterprise, would be visiting the airport in the next week.
“We rented six cars today,” Selby said and then added they lost three sales the previous week because the customers would have been arriving after hours.
The board then made the decision to direct Selby to investigate the viability of the airport purchasing cars and renting them to customers themselves rather than going through a local rental company.
“I think it would be worth the expenditure based on how many cars we are renting and how much business it would keep coming into the airport,” Sparta mayor and UCRA board member Jeff Young said.
Selby agreed with Young.
“This would be a change in the way we currently do this, but is a viable solution as we often rent five or more cars in a single day,” Selby said.
Selby also said having their own cars available for rentals would also help solve the problem of purchasing new courtesy cars.
“We could tell them the first two hours are free and then after that charge them for a rental,” he said, stating that often the courtesy cars are kept out longer than the two-hour time limit they have on them, putting the airport at a need for more cars. “This would keep people from over-using the cars or at least generate us some income and help offset the associated costs.”
Before the meeting adjourned, the board elected officers for the upcoming year. Randy Porter will remain as chairperson, with Denny Wayne Robinson serving as vice chair, and Pete Ziegler will serve as secretary/ treasurer. Hoyt Jones agreed to serve another term as the representative from the city of Sparta.
“We’ve got a great board, and we have done some amazing things over the past several years,” Porter said. “When you have four governments coming together to operate something and for us to be able to do it in the great manner that we do, I applaud all of you for that. We’ve got great plans for the airport, and I see great things happening over the next couple of years. I’m glad we are together in this.”