AZTEC — Last month, city commissioners approved the purchase of a mobile home at the Aztec Municipal Airport that is expected to house the next airport manager.
The purchase is part of preparations the city is making for a change in management at the small twin-runway airport.
The seller of the manager's home at the airport, Patricia Arnold, is the current manager at the airport.
She and her husband, former Aztec mayor Michael "Mike" Arnold Sr., took up residence on the airport grounds in 1999.
The Arnold's managed the airport together until May of last year when Mike Arnold, 62, died when he lost control of his single-engine plane and crashed shortly after take-off.
Patricia Arnold and her son, Mike Arnold Jr., have overseen daily operations there since Mike Arnold Sr.'s death.
Last September, city commissioners approved a one-year extension of a lease agreement with the Arnold family to continue managing the city's airport.
The extension expires Sept. 20. So far, the city has yet to fill the manager position but received responses from five individuals in the last month, according to City Manager Joshua Ray.
"Pat Arnold is not going to manage it any longer. We've been working with them to transition to the next manager. We're in the process of receiving proposals for the next manager," Ray said. "The (Sept. 20) deadline is there, but we will make a change as soon as we approve a new individual to take over."
The airport manager, an unpaid position, can derive an income from the sale of fuel at the airport and the leasing of hangar space. If the next manager agrees to live in the airport's mobile home, that person would be provided the living quarters, but still have to pay for any utilities, Ray said.
"We basically trade them the space — we own the property — as part of their income," Ray said. "We don't pay anything directly to the manager, so they can live there and provide on-site security."
Review of applications for the position should conclude within a month or so, Ray said.
Ray says the airport serves a definite purpose for the city.
"I think it's a huge benefit to the city to bring tourists to the city and to give people a local airport to use," Ray said. "It's been steady the last four years — pilot usage and hangar requests have seen a small upsurge."
The city collects about $900 each year from leases for two plane hangars, according to Aztec Finance Director Kathy Lamb.
Of the airport's total 73 acres, the city owns 18. The remaining 55 acres are owned by the Bureau of Land Management. The city leases the BLM acreage for $500 per year. The bureau only charges the city for the land where the two airstrips are located, according to Aztec Projects Manager Ed Kotyk.
"Pat's been excellent to work with — it's been seamless for us," Ray said. "The nobility of her taking care of the airport on behalf of the city has just been outstanding. The big challenge for her was not having Mike. I'm excited for her to finish up her work there and get the next manager on board."
Calls to Patricia Arnold for comment about this story were not returned Monday.
James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.