Shake up at McKinleyville airport; Controversial Airport Manager’s Exit Averts Layoff

The resignation of the county’s airport manager has spared another management-level airport employee from being laid off.

airport.ACVRESIZED copyThough her name wasn’t specifically mentioned, the resignation of Airport Manager Jacqueline Hulsey was announced at the May 7 Board of Supervisors meeting. To those who were there to lobby against layoffs, it was a surprising but welcome development that allows the retention of Airport Programs Coordinator Emily Jacobs.

She’s part of a team that’s negotiating the enlistment of an additional airline at the Arcata-Eureka Airport – an effort that’s said to be showing more promise than ever.

Jacobs was one of four county employees who were recommended to be laid off from the county’s aviation division.

Hulsey had been on administrative leave and has been accused of negligence and mismanagement. Her resignation opens up funding for Jacobs’ position but supervisors authorized staff to go ahead with the layoff process for two airport services workers and a groundskeeper.

County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes said the laid-off airport workers can be offered other county jobs and if their positions re-open, they’re guaranteed to be able to return to them. The layoffs are effective June 30.

They’re due to a shortage of revenue in the county’s Aviation Enterprise Fund, which holds revenues collected from airport fees. The fee revenue has declined due to reduced airline service but at the meeting, supervisors said there’s new momentum on the airline enlistment effort.

Don Ehnebuske, the executive director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission, is also part of the airline recruitment team. He told supervisors that the retention of Jacobs’ position is “excellent news” because her knowledge of the aviation industry has been useful in discussions with airline representatives.

He added that Jacobs’ help is especially important to the push for bringing in another airline because “things are looking a little better than they’ve looked in the entire time I’ve been working on it.”

Ehnebuske declined to say more, noting that airlines are wary of media attention to deals in progress.

The apparently upbeat developments were reported in the context of a third quarter budget review that included negative numbers. Deputy County Administrative Officer Amy Nilsen said county General Fund spending in the coming year’s budget is expected to exceed revenues by $2.9 million.

The shortfall comes at a time when county departments are advancing supplemental budget requests. Nilsen said the 2013-2014 budget includes over $4 million in supplemental funding requests, with $1.7 million in additional staffing requests.

Nilsen said the supplemental staffing requests are for 22 positions, “All mainly in public safety.”

Supervisors approved a number of staff recommendations in addition to the layoffs, including authorization of voluntary furloughs and allocation of $250,000 to the county’s under-funded General Reserve.