“City Government 101” is an ongoing series that debuted in April 2023 and highlights different aspects of municipal government as it pertains to Columbus, Nebraska, in hopes to provide information on how the City of Columbus operates.
Every City of Columbus department head was recently asked some questions in regard to their department, the current fiscal year budget and plans for their department in the upcoming fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2023-Sept. 30, 2024).
DEPARTMENT: Municipal Airport
DEPARTMENT HEAD: Ross Niedbalski
(Interview conducted in September 2023)
Q: How many people are in your department?
A: We currently have two people in our department.
Q: How long have you been head of your department?
A: I have been the airport manager since Feb. 6 of 2023.
Q: How do you think things went for your department in fiscal year 2022-2023?
A: I feel as though things went fairly well for our last fiscal year. We dealt with our aging equipment and mechanical problems well. We were able to make a few changes that allowed us to increase our efficiency and reduce labor.
Q: What were at least two of your department’s biggest accomplishments in the last fiscal year (and why?)?
A: We were able to help negotiate a new FBO contract for services for the flying public at the airport. We were also able to make the needed concrete repairs to hangar 1406 from damage from concrete heaving. This project took a little longer than anticipated to complete due to Mother Nature, but with patience from hangar tenants it worked out. We also were able to start our engineering and bid phase for our new 8 place T-Hangar build. We received a grant from the FAA for 90% of the cost for this phase.
Q: What are some of the problems your department faced in the last fiscal year and how did you overcome them?
A: Our biggest problem revolved around equipment breakdowns! With only two of us in the department when we had equipment break it was trying to be able to work on that as well as continue to get the rest of the grounds work accomplished. We utilized Shane and his crew and central maintenance on a number of occasions to help get back up and running which worked well.
Q: What are at least 3 major things you’re wanting your department to accomplish in fiscal year 2023-2024 and how is the new budget going to improve that?
A: We are looking to complete our design and bid phase for the 8 place T-Hangar project. We are also hopeful to get a start date for the build sometime in 2024. We are also going to work to streamline our operations a little more to help maximize our labor efforts at the airport. With only having two people in the department this will be one of our biggest tasks. We are also starting to work on the possibility of getting self-serve 100LL fuel at the airport. This would allow airport customers to fuel 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
Q: What can the public expect from your department in the next fiscal year?
A: They can expect our continued effort to provide the best airport and experience we can to our flying public. We are striving to make changes to improve and grow aviation in Columbus. To continue to evolve and streamline our operations to be the most fiscally responsible we can be.
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