FMAA Plow-and-broom Vehicle

Airport staff hopes that adding another “force multiplier” to its fleet will reduce the burden on its snow removal crew.

Citing the need to replace aging snow removal equipment, the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority board last week approved acquisition of a second plow-and-broom vehicle in the amount of $684,213.

Also known as a “force multiplier,” the multitasking equipment piece from Wisconsin-based M-B Cos. will be purchased with local funds and delivered before next winter, airport Manager Chris Pomeroy said.

The vehicle has a 24-foot front-mount plow and 22-foot broom with an air blast system.

“We've already found it to be one of the most useful pieces of equipment that we have. It’s essentially two pieces of equipment operated by one operator,” Pomeroy said.

Airport Operations Manager Tim Burke said that because Friedman’s new instrument approach procedure is expected to significantly reduce flight diversions starting next month, the airport will need to up the ante on its snow removal.

“The operations department is going to be pushed to the edge of their capabilities keeping this airport open. Every bucket of snow and every plowed amount of snow needs to be accounted for, because we don't have the real estate of bigger airports,” he said.

Burke noted that the multitasking vehicle will perform the work of two separate pieces of equipment while only burning the diesel fuel of one.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that an acquisition of a second [force-multiplier] will bring the airport to the next level and unleash its full potential,” he said.

During its Nov. 17 meeting, the FMAA board also approved a $180,000 contract with Caldwell Transportation Co. for a year of bussing services to and from the airport. The company has provided connections to and from Twin Falls and Boise in the event of diversions for several years, Pomeroy said.

Fly Sun Valley Alliance normally covers the bussing expense, but the airport will take it over this time, he said, as the alliance is facing lower revenues from local-option tax receipts.

“I’m confident that we will be able to handle this expense and remain in a good financial position,” airport Finance and Administration Manager Brent Davis said.

In other airport news:

• The airport saw a bit of improvement in October over previous months with commercial passenger traffic down about 54 percent compared to October 2019, Pomeroy said. (September enplanements were down 60 percent and August enplanements were down 64 percent.) In terms of operations, the airport was down only 3 percent in October compared to October 2019.

• Fly Sun Valley Alliance Director Carol Waller reported last Wednesday that flight bookings have “definitely been coming in,” though slower than last year—a trend also observed by the hotel industry. “We're looking forward to a winter season that hopefully brings a few more passengers here than this summer,” she said. “All things considered, our community is very fortunate to have our level of service, and it would be very hard to get that back if we lost it.”

• The airport board will discuss whether to extend or modify its joint-powers agreement between Blaine County and the city of Hailey at its next meeting on Dec. 8. The agreement—set to expire on Dec. 31—is the enabling document for the Airport Authority board to act as an independent entity and is necessary to maintain airport operations.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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