The Rhode Island Airport Corporation has apparently not renewed its contract with AvPorts, the company that has managed the state’s smaller airports, including the Block Island Airport and the Westerly Airport, and will take over the management of the airport on July 1.
Tourism Director Jessica Willi informed the Tourism Council of the change at its meeting on Tuesday, June 12.
“RIAC is doing away with the regional airport model. RIAC will manage the airports themselves,” said Willi. “This is causing a little bit of confusion.” Willi said that the two part-time AvPorts employees now at the airport may not be kept on — due to union rules RIAC does not hire part-time employees, she said — and island resident Andy Transue will be the on-site manager for the airport.
RIAC has scheduled a community outreach meeting with island residents and businesses.
Representatives of RIAC will provide updates and answer questions regarding airport operations and any other matters of concern on Tuesday, June 26 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall. The public is encouraged to attend.
Bill Bendokas, who with his wife Lois have run New England Airlines for the past 47 years, said that the impact of the change from AvPorts to RIAC is still something of a mystery, given that nothing has been officially announced.
He said it appears as though RIAC employees will be taking over the physical maintenance of the airport — such as mowing the grass, changing light bulbs — while a new company that has been awarded a contract through a bid process will be in charge of airport operations, such as radio communications and parking the planes.
Bendokas said parking planes is an important issue when summer traffic starts to increase.
Bendokas said it would also make sense to move the current AvPorts employees at Block Island over to the RIAC operations side, given their level of experience, but he did not know if that was going to happen.
“The big question which company it is and what will their function be,” said Bendokas, who said he had heard that some sort of announcement will be made on or about June 15.
“The effect of these decisions is an unknown quantity at this point,” he said. “It could be a serious financial impact or it could be a minor hiccup.”