County commissioners disbanded the Apalachicola Regional Airport Advisory Committee at their Sept. 19 meeting.
County Coordinator Michael Morón, who was asked at the county’s Aug 15 meeting to review activities of the AAC, had recommended Sept. 5 that commissioners reorganize the board, with each of the five commissioners nominating a representative.
In addition, Morón suggested the airport manager be designated as AAC administrator, with the task of creating the agendas, keeping the minutes, and presenting AAC recommendations to the county commissioners.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Morón said none of the county commissioners has provided him, as of yet, with a written nomination for membership on AAC.
Former AAC chair Randall Terry said that for the past two years, AAC meetings have been held quarterly based on need, and that he and Airport Manager Jason Puckett call for board meetings. He said meeting notifications are published via email.
Morón, who advised Sept. 19 the existing board be dissolved, said he discussed the AAC with Puckett who on Sept. 1 provided Morón with a list of seated AAC members, and designated three of the six members as having “missed numerous meetings.”
Listed AAC members were Chairman Randall Terry, Ted Mosteller, Chuck Marks, Pete Burgher, Steve Kirschenbaum and Frank Stephens. Puckett indicated Burgher, Kirschenbaum and Stephens were often absent from AAC meetings.
Over the last three years, meetings of AAC appear to have decreased in frequency, and scheduling became erratic. Based on a spreadsheet of AAC minutes provided Morón by Mosteller, the AAC met five times in 2014, in March, June, August, October and December, with the August meeting failing to achieve a quorum.
In Oct. 2014 county commissioners hired Puckett as airport manager for $1,000 annually and 1 percent of grants received by the airport.
In 2015, AAC met three times, in February, May and August, but failed to achieve a quorum for the August meeting, which was cancelled. The February meeting achieved a quorum by contacting three board members via telephone.
In Sept. 2015, Burgher replaced Art Little as vice chair, who then left AAC. Terry replaced Mosteller as AAC chair; Mosteller remained an AAC member.
Three meetings were attempted in 2016, but meetings in February and December were cancelled due to lack of a quorum. A November meeting was “not advertised and thus cancelled at the last minute.”
In 2017 the AAC has attempted to meet twice in March and June. The March meeting failed to achieve a quorum.
In a telephone interview, Burgher said he was informed of the decision to disband the AAC by Terry last week. He said he was surprised by the announcement. He said he had only missed two meetings in the last two years and that, in both cases; he had failed to attend because he wasn’t given sufficient notice.
“I asked AAC to schedule meetings in advance, which they did, and since then I have attended every meeting,” he said. Burgher also said that all meetings he did attend had a quorum of AAC members in attendance.
Burgher, a forensic accountant with a long interest in aviation, said he spends more than 60 percent of his time in residence at his Cape San Blas home. He first rented, and later constructed, a hangar at Clever Randolph Field where he keeps an experimental amphibious aircraft.
He said former County Planner Alan Pierce, when he was county liaison to the airport board, and Terry invited him to sit on AAC.
In 1976, Burgher chaired the Michigan Aeronautics Commission, of which he was a member from 1973 until 1978. He served as Great Lakes regional representative to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association from 1985-1994; and from 1994 to 1998 chaired the Flight Freedom Foundation, Inc., a volunteer non-profit organization supporting general aviation. Burgher is a member of the National Aeronautics Association and the Experimental Aircraft Association. He was inducted into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame in Oct. 1995.
“At one point I was advising 50 airports in the Midwest,” he said in a telephone interview Monday.
Eastpoint business owner Kirschenbaum said he also learned the AAC had been disbanded last week. He said he has expertise in organizing air shows and has studied to be a pilot but did not apply for a license. He said he only missed one meeting since being appointed two years ago to the AAC on the recommendation of Commissioner Noah Lockley.
Kirschenbaum said he informed Lockley after the Sept. 19 meeting that he wanted to recuse himself from further service on AAC.
Stephens could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
The Puckett memo also named two individuals who Puckett said wanted to join the AAC, John Bone and Gordon Hunter, both retired airline pilots who own airplanes based at Randolph Field.
The fixed base operator contract with Krystal Air for the airport expires in November.
Krystal Air, a Chattanooga, Tennessee firm, has asked to be considered for a new five-year contract. Centric Aviation of Lumberton, NJ has also submitted their qualifications for the position. Both proposals are under review.