by Marissa Lorenz
After nearly five months of negotiations, the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and the Town of Kremmling have reached an agreement with Keith and Joanna Whitemarsh of Grand River Aviation, signing a contract for Grand River Aviation, LLC. to take over services as the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at McElroy Airfield in Kremmling.
Commissioners directed staff to enter into negotiations in early December, after the Airport Advisory Committee and Airport Supervisor Josh Schroeder unanimously recommended Grand River Aviation for the role.
“As a whole, we feel that Grand River Aviation will be a good partner for Grand County and the surrounding communities,” said the Committee at that time. “With their current plans and aviation knowledge, they are the best fit for the position.”
And indeed, Keith is a mechanic and holds a private pilot’s license. He has logged over 300 hours flight time, over 200 hours as Pilot in Command, with 755 landings, and has hangered his Cessna 182 at McElroy Airfield for the past eight years. To better understand airport operations, he worked for some time with long-time FBO Jim Ward of Alpine Wings, who served the County as FBO for the last 25 years.
Joanna is a Kremmling native with a career history in retail and construction management. Her father has been involved with McElroy Airport operations for much of her life. She brings familiarity with the airport and a wealth of experience in marketing, customer service, and cooperative planning to this next phase of aviation in Grand County.
Completed just in time for the expiration of Alpine Wings’ contract with the County, agreement over operation of the airport’s fuel system was a major challenge in both the bidding and negotiation processes.
Grand County owns and has previously been responsible for all maintenance and compliance responsibilities for the fuel system. The hope was for the new FBO to take over full ownership and responsibility for the fuel farm, but no applicant expressed interest in the sometimes burdensome and potentially costly duty, especially given an anticipated need to update if not replace the system within the next five years.
Under the finally-agreed-upon contract, the County will continue ownership and most maintenance responsibilities, while Grand
River Aviation will take over fuel purchasing and compliance responsibilities. However, the contract also says that the “FBO shall be responsible for the costs, including maintenance, of any upgrades or modifications to the fuel system that FBO desires,” assuming project approval from the County.
The new FBO will be responsible for day-to-day airport operations, including aircraft rental, maintenance services, and flight instruction.
The contract further permits Grand River Aviation to offer scenic flights, present educational opportunities, and host “fly-ins” and other economic-boosting events at the airport.
Upon presentation of the finalized contract to the BOCC, Commissioner Kristen Manguso motioned to approve the contract with “enthusiasm and pleasure.” Those present applauded at the unanimous vote.
“The airport is a key amenity for both the town of Kremmling and the County,” Manguso said. “Having the knowledge and expertise that Grand River Aviation brings will allow the airport to continue functioning at a high level and will also bring the Western hospitality for which Grand County is known to visitors touching down for the first time.”
“This is the result of a long process, and we are looking forward to the opportunities that are ahead with this venture,” agreed Commissioner Rich Cimino.
“This is the end of a long negotiation process and many conversations that I believe is going to be a win-win partnership for many years into the future,” added Commission Chair Merrit Linke.
The approved FBO contract begins April 27, 2021, and covers a five-year term. It allows for four potential five-year renewals, for a total of 25 years. The contract had been reviewed and approved, though not yet signed, by the Kremmling Town Council.
“We are very excited to be the new Fixed Base Operators!” Keith Whitemarsh said of the successful agreement. “The opportunity to combine our love of aviation and service to our community and county is a blessing!”