RIAC requests proposals for airport operations
The Rhode Island Airport Corporation has issued a request for proposals that it hopes will appeal to an island business or individual, to serve as the Block Island Airport’s fixed base operator.
The former FBO, FlightLevel Aviation, discontinued its operations at the end of September as its contract with RIAC called for seasonal coverage only. The Block Island State Airport has been without an FBO since Oct. 1.
The deadline for submitting bids to RIAC’s request for proposals is 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 28. A meeting held on Block Island on Friday, Dec. 14 to specifically gauge local interest in the RFP, however, elicited no response.
“I don’t see interest from any FBO’s here today,” said New Shoreham Town Manager Ed Roberge, who attended that meeting. “In response, what will RIAC do?”
“We’re open to any ideas,” said Alan Andrade, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for RIAC, noting that the local airport was “under RIAC’s control,” but the RFP would allow a local business or individual to operate its own operation on the property.
RIAC’s RFP states that the agency “is seeking proposals from qualified operators or individuals to establish and collect applicable aircraft landing and parking fees (aircraft and/or vehicle) and provide general cleaning and janitorial services for the public lobby and restrooms in the Block Island State Airport terminal building for a percentage of collected fees under a three-year agreement.”
Andrade stood in the airport’s lobby on Dec. 14 and told a handful of people, including town officials, that RIAC is seeking a business, or individual, that has interest “in finding revenue streams” at the airport. That could be a “moped operator,” or other island-based business, he said.
When RIAC issued an RFP for an FBO last April, it did not include the Block Island Airport as part of the package. FlightLevel only agreed to stay on until the end of September because it did not believe there was enough activity at the airport to warrant a year-round presence. Andrade said that the Federal Aviation Administration does not require an FBO at the airport.
“There is nothing I would like to see more than to have the island taking care of the activities and business at the airport,” said Andrade. “The uniqueness is having somebody on the island” to serve as FBO with RIAC receiving 15 percent of revenue generated.”
Andrade was accompanied by James Warcup, RIAC’s Chief Aeronautics Inspector, and Richard McCurley, Vice President of Operations and Maintenance.
Andrade said RIAC needed to get “creative” and appeal to island-based entities, and pursue interested parties through a second round of bids. “We want to have somebody here,” he said. “We have to continue to maintain some level of presence. And we want to see if there’s interest to take that on.”
Second Warden André Boudreau, who attended the meeting with Councilor Martha Ball, said a local entity, such as the Block Island Tourism Council or Chamber of Commerce, could serve as FBO. “Where is the Tourism Council, or the Chamber? The meeting at the airport with RIAC officials was an opportunity” to learn about the RFP, he said. The Tourism Council’s Executive Director Jessica Willi has an office at the airport.
Boudreau was also not pleased with RIAC’s explanation for FlightLevel’s departure from the airport. “The problem is: Block Island was taken out of the loop,” Boudreau told The Times, speaking of the RFP that was issued last year.
“That’s the only question,” said Councilor Martha Ball. “How did we get dropped out of the loop?”
The Block Island Airport is the only airport out of five general aviation state airports operating without an FBO. The other state airports are North Central Airport, Newport Airport, Westerly Airport, and Quonset Airport.
Resident pilot Henry duPont, also in attendance, told The Times that it costs $100,000 to fund an FBO at the airport.
“RIAC’s assertion that it could not get FlightLevel to provide FBO services at the airport is very disingenuous and an enormous smoke screen,” said duPont. “It fits a pattern of RIAC’s negligence in performing their mandate to provide operations and maintenance services at the five outlying airports. They cut the Block Island Airport budget by $100,000 and now they are blaming it on their airport services contractor for not wanting to provide essential services to our airport, at a $100,000 loss.”
DuPont said he is working with state and town officials to restore the funding for the FBO at the airport. “If we don’t get it back, the legislature will include it in the budget,” he said. “It’s a state activity on Block Island. Every town has to advocate for their own airport.”
As for what’s next, Roberge said, “We will wait and see what happens.” He said the town might need to get “creative” in its approach to the airport, but noted that it “could try to get the $100,000 back in the airport’s budget.”
“We’ll do anything we can to make it work,” said Boudreau concerning having an FBO at the airport. “That means whatever creative process we need to go through. We’re going to get it done.”
RIAC’s RFP notes that questions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 4 p.m. on Dec. 18. RFP submissions are due on Dec. 28 and should be mailed to the Office of Procurement, Rhode Island Airport Corporation, T.F. Green Airport, 2000 Post Road, Warwick, RI, 02886-1533.