Council committee OKs Grider Field budget

The Pine Bluff City Council Traffic and Aviation Committee, meeting Wednesday, approved a 2014 budget of $137,566 for Grider Field that will be included in the city’s overall budget subject to full council approval.

Grider Field Airport Manager John D. Hale outlined his proposed budget of $143,566 with City Finance Director Steve Miller as well as Third Ward Alderman Glen Brown, the committee chairman, and Fourth Ward Alderman Steven Mays. also a committee member. Second Ward Alderman Charles Boyd, the third member of the committee, was not present.

Miller advised that a previously recommended 20 percent increase in funds set aside for insurance was being rolled back across all city departments and as such the budget for Grider Field should be adjusted down by $6,000.

“The city is instead going with a plan that will keep insurance costs from going up,” Miller said.

Hale said that his submitted budget does not include any requests for capital improvement funds.

“The mayor asked that we not include any capital improvements in our budget so they aren’t in there,” Hale said. “That’s not to say that we don’t need any. We have to keep the grass cut low on 350 acres of land and to do that we have a tractor and a bush hog. The tractor is a 1991 model and the bush hog is seven years old. They both get a lot of work during the growing season which presently stretches from March until November. While the equipment is in dire need of replacement for now we will continue to patch and patch.”

Hale said the mowing is not just for aesthetics.

“We have to keep the grass cut; otherwise we end up with rodents and then we get birds of prey, Hale said. “Now any kind of bird and airplanes is a very bad combination. So, we mow frequently. “

Hale said the ultimate goal of the facility and of the Pine Bluff Aviation Commission is making Grider Field self-sustaining.

“We are working toward being self-supportive but the reality is that is not where we are now,” Hale said.

Hale said Grider Field generates a substantial amount of revenue.

“Our fuel sales are a major revenue generator,” Hale said. “We also make money from hangar rentals, aircraft storage and aircraft tie downs. We also earn money from renting out 500 acres of farm land on the property.”

The 2014 operating budget presented by Hale lists projected net revenue from fuel sales at $58,384.

“Our city department is run like a small business because it pretty much is a small business,” Hale said.

Hale said bringing the airport bookkeeper position back up to full time status in 2013 has greatly helped the facility function.

“Several years ago one of our commissioners thought it made sense to trim the position back from full- to part-time and we suffered for it,” Hale said. “So it has been very beneficial to have that position restored to full-time status.”