Thursday, May 13, 2010

State planes to call Norman skies home

This is a local Oklahoma story but it shows how much can be saved if you compete. Imagine if the Federal Government did that across the board instead of always giving the same people the contracts, but then they don't have President Boren who heads The University of Oklahoma involved with negotiations.

If every agency of Government at all levels did what the Oklahoma Department of Safety has done to negotiate a new lease for space, our tax dollars would be better spent across the board. Even the fact they are consolidating State Resources for air at one location so fuel can be bought in bulk will save money.

This should be an example of what can be done with some ingenuity on the part of the State Legislatures and the Executive branch agencies across the Country and into the Federal Government:
May 13, 2010

State planes to call Norman skies home
By Nanette Light
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — OU’s Max Westheimer Airport will be the new headquarters for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety’s Troop O, clearing runways for four fixed-wing planes — including the governor’s aircraft — and three helicopters to the Norman airport beginning July 1, state officials announced Wednesday.

The move of the troop, which oversees the agency’s planes and helicopters, is expected to save the state more than $1 million in rent and fuel costs over a span of 10 years and further launch Westheimer’s role in state aviation to the skies.

Officials said the governor’s King Air (The Spirit of Oklahoma), another six-seat plane, three helicopters and two traffic planes will be based on the airport’s eastern edge near U.S. 77.

“Even as this move saves taxpayer dollars, it also adds to the prestige and stature of Westheimer Airport,” said state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee on public safety. “The governor’s flagship aircraft, the Spirit of Oklahoma, will now be based in Norman. And that’s a big deal.”

State Sen. Jonathan Nichols, R-Norman, the ranking member of the appropriations subcommittee on public safety, said compared to the agency’s current holdings at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City, Westheimer’s public facilities include more space for less money.

According to a news release, the rent for 10,000 square feet of hangar space — along with 5,000 square feet of office, barracks and parts room space — at the Westheimer Airport facility will be approximately $4,000 per month.

The agency is paying $15,300 per month in rent at Wiley Post Airport.

Nichols said the savings from this move could be invested in crime-fighting and law enforcement.

“If you want an excellent way to improve efficiency, reduce waste and save taxpayer dollars, this plan has it all. It’s a great addition for Norman, and a much better use of our limited public resources,” Nichols said.

In addition, fuel costs to the agency are expected to nose-dive after the move. The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics already operates at Westheimer and OU’s flight school is based at the facility. The move means fuel can be bought in bulk, reducing costs, since the relocation streamlines the lift-off and landing headquarters of these state agencies.

“It makes sense to locate all of these state law-enforcement, public-safety assets in one central location,” said Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, who chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee on public safety. “The greater efficiency and savings that will be achieved is significant.”

Terrill said OU officials were supporters of Troop O’s move and helped with negotiations for a smooth take-off in the relocation.

“I believe that the location of Troop O at Westheimer Airport will be both beneficial to the state and the university. It should also provide cost savings for the taxpayers of Oklahoma,” OU President David Boren said.

Kevin Ward, the commissioner of public safety, said a supervisor, four helicopter rated pilots, two civilian pilots assigned to the executive aircraft, two traffic pilots, two mechanics and support personnel now will be based in Norman.

Ward, who said the planes have been based at Wiley Post for as long as he can recall, said budget savings are the bottom line for landing the new home-base.

“Throughout this tough budget environment, we have worked diligently to find savings whenever and wherever possible without compromising public safety,” Ward said. “The move will provide meaningful cost-savings without reducing our effectiveness.”

Russell Knoke, president of the Oklahoma State Troopers Association, said the move also lessens the chance of losing trooper jobs.

“Whenever we produce operational savings, jobs are spared and law enforcement officials remain available to protect the public,” he said.

Transcript Executive Editor Andy Rieger contributed to this report.

Source: Norman Transcript

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