Top candidates turn down post

Salary prompts 3 airport management prospects to back out

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September passenger numbers

More than 4,000 passengers boarded planes for Denver and Salt Lake City at Yampa Valley Regional Airport last month.

The Mesa Airlines/United Express flight to Denver carried 3,217 passengers, and the SkyWest/Delta 50-passenger jet service to Salt Lake City carried 1,061 people. Total departing passengers in September reached 4,278.

Delta's numbers were up dramatically from September 2006 mostly because of increased service.

Despite the difficulty of year-over-year comparisons, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Airline Program Director Janet Fischer said there are signs the Delta flight is meeting with greater acceptance this year. Reservations data tells her the trend will continue through early December, when ski season service brings larger aircraft and more flights on the Salt Lake route.

"In general, the fall SkyWest/Delta flight is operating at higher load factors than it did the previous year," Fischer said. "It's a true positive."

The total number of passengers in calendar 2007 was approaching 120,000 by the end of last month.

Yampa Valley Regional Airport Manager Dave Ruppel had hoped to name his new assistant manager during last week's Airport Commission meeting. But all three of the job finalists turned down his offers.

"It has been a discouraging process," Ruppel said Wednesday. "I've got a couple more people to look at. I'll have to see if they are still available."

It appears to be an employees' market in airport management, Ruppel said. Last month, he chose five candidates to interview from 60 resumes he received in August. He focused on candidates currently employed at commercial airports. The top of the salary scale for the position is $73,000.

"Dave had good candidates," said Yampa Valley Airport Commission Chairman Mike Forney. "We just couldn't seem to connect on salary. I know it's not the job - it's an exciting job."

Of the five candidates, three stood out, Ruppel said. Two of the three turned down the job after apparently receiving offers of pay raises at their current jobs, Ruppel said. The third, a woman from a Midwestern city, looked at real estate for sale in Hayden and did an about-face.

The time for putting a new assistant manager in place before the busiest time of the year at the airport is shrinking. Ski season jet flights are about 60 days away.

"Clearly, the county and the commission will do everything in their power to assist Dave," Forney said. "We're committed to the successful operation of this airport."

Ruppel is seeking to fill the position vacated when Ann Copeland retired in May. At the same time, he has rewritten the job description for the post. Copeland was charged with management of the terminal and improving customer service while the airport underwent major remodeling of its check-in and waiting areas. Now that the passenger disruption from construction is moderating, Ruppel says he is seeking a more traditional assistant airport manager to assume day-to-day authority for the operation of the airport's different departments.

Forney said the airport is scheduled for an additional $12 million in improvements in the next two years and $41 million over 10 years. Still on the drawing table is an expansion of the baggage area, relocation of the administrative offices into the main terminal and an expansion of the aircraft parking ramp so that it can accommodate more than six aircraft at a time, Forney said.

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