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tim hens

November 13, 2021 - 12:20pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Genesee County Airport, tim hens, FAA, genesee county.

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When it comes to the Genesee County Airport, Tim Hens sees himself as a public servant with a private sector mentality.

And that philosophy has worked quite well over the past 20 years, according to the county highway superintendent, as the airport has been upgraded and modernized without a single dollar coming from county property tax revenue.

Hens gave The Batavian a tour of the sprawling facility along East Saile Drive in the Town of Batavia last week, pointing out the various buildings and providing insight into the funding of the operation that currently houses 68 aircraft, including single-engine planes, helicopters and “decent sized corporate jets.”

The county’s plan back in 2001 was to privatize the airport, Hens recalled.

“We were going to put the management of the airport out to bid to see if we can get a company to do it,” he said. “And our bids were out on the street, literally, as 911 happened. And if you remember back to 911, the whole airline industry and aviation industry just crumbled and shut down. It was not a good time to have a bid package out for airport management.”

Hens, who had recently been hired (he’s also the county engineer), said the county did not receive any responses to their request for proposal.

“So, by default, the county stepped in,” he said. “And I proposed that we hire some county employees and manage it. And luckily, it has worked out very, very well. We actually ended up sticking with that process for the last 20 years.”

As a result, Hens is able to use his business management skills to market the facility, assist in the bookkeeping, filing sales tax and supervising maintenance and upkeep.

“It’s like owning your own little business,” he said. “We've got employees to manage, we're selling fuel, we have to look at pricing, we’ve got to look at our competitors. It’s so different than my highway job where it's just fix what we got and plow the snow – and we do plow snow out here, too.”

Ownership of the airport enables the county to control its own destiny, Hens said.

“We have found that we could take in all the revenue, as opposed to paying it out to a management company or a private business to run the airport,” he said. “We were getting the full benefit of the revenue and could control our expenses. Plus, things move much faster – such as expanding the runway and other business decisions.”

The staff at the airport (other than Jeff and Carol Boshart of Boshart Enterprises; see accompanying story) consists of two full-time employees – manager Jason Long and airport attendant Ron Stringham – and a couple of part-timers who fill in during holidays and weekends.

The airport features a two-story main terminal that, along with the main hangar, was built in 2015 as part of a $4.9 million project, Hens said. The county received a grant for $300,000 and the remainder was bonded over 20 years.

The main terminal features a foyer, training rooms, pilot lounge, P&L Air flight school, break rooms and several offices. The main hangar, which is used by Boshart Enterprises, measures 100 by 120 feet with a 30-foot high ceiling.

Located to the west are six corporate hangars – three of which are owned by Genesee County and three that are privately owned – and five T-hangars that were built in 1997, 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2020. Those contain 46 separate smaller hangars, with one of them rented by Mercy Flight for its helicopters.

Hens said the facility is part of the county’s transportation and infrastructure operation, and is utilized by numerous local companies, including Milton CAT, Tompkins Financial, National Grid, Western New York Energy in Medina, Six Flags Darien Lake, HP Hood and Lamb Farms.

“It gets way more use than people think,” said Hens, an Air Force veteran who attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado – and has flown jets. “The best thing about it is that zero property taxes are put toward the airport.

“People say they are funding the hobbies of the rich. That’s not true. It’s a self-sustaining, self-paid-for operation. Since 2001, Genesee County has received $32 million in federal and state aid for the airport.”

He said that 95 percent of the funding is covered in most cases.

“The money is going to go somewhere, it might as well come here,” he said, adding that funding for the facility is based entirely on airline user fees through an airport trust fund.

“Our fuel sales and rental fees pay for the airport operation. We are showing an annual surplus of $80,000 to $100,000, and that money goes back exclusively for airport expenses and improvements.”

Hens said the county is planning to develop more of the land at the west end. In September, it applied for a $13 million grant to build a large hangar at the corner of State Street Road. It would be 100 percent funded by New York State through the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization initiative.

“It’s a ‘If we build it they will come sort of thing.’ We need the hangar for larger jets of corporate site selectors who are representing businesses looking to locate here.”

Genesee County’s ability to run its own airport and turn a profit hasn’t gone unnoticed by officials of other counties, Hens said.

“I think, to this day, we are one of the few airports in upstate New York that make money. We get a lot of calls and I've done presentations as far away as Lake George as to what are you doing at your airport? How come you are successful? So, I think you're seeing more and more municipalities get involved in their airport operations.”

Although the county owns the airport, there is an opportunity for an entrepreneur to come in at the main terminal.

“We’ve got a small space carved out on the second floor for a café and sandwich shop with a seating area,” Hens said. “We’re looking for someone to run it.”

Photo at top: The main terminal at the Genesee County Airport on East Saile Drive. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

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The main terminal lobby and County Line Service office.

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Based aircraft at the Genesee County Airport, including a plane from the Civil Air Patrol.

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T-Hangars. Forty-six individual units are rented at the airport.

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The main terminal and main hangar were built in 2015.

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View from second floor of the main terminal, looking northeast at fuel tanks and runway.

September 19, 2018 - 1:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in county highway, tim hens, news, notify, infrastructure.

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During the Public Service Committee meeting Tuesday, Highway Superintendent Tim Hens updated members of the County Legislature on the work of his department.

On funding, the proposed county road budget for 2019 is $5,527,130. Asphalt prices have increased 20 percent in 2018. Salt prices are up 16 percent. Gas prices have gone from $2 a gallon to $2.35 and climbing, though prices should stabilize in 2019, Hens said. The department has 57 employees (54.25 full-time equivalents), working in administration, highway, parks, airport, fleet, and facility maintenance.     

Besides a share of the general fund, the department receives grants for projects. State aid in 2018 has been $1.6 million, plus $382,193 from the PAVE-NY fund, $240,498 for extreme weather recovery.

Federal aid, Hens said, is still limited.

The county, including applications from towns, has 31 applications made to BRIDGE-NY, with an announcement for funding expected in the fall. 

Hens anticipates needing $2,131,466 for roach machinery in 2019. The department is making lease payments on a dozer, loader, an excavator, and needs a wheel loader, pickup, 2.5-ton truck, and mid-sized track excavator.

The county is responsible for 260 miles of highway. There are 92 bridges longer than 20 feet and 278 bridges and culverts longer than five feet and less than 20 feet. 

"We need to replace two bridges a year to keep our heads above water and we have been doing one bridge a year based on available federal funding," Hens said. 

The rating for the Lyons Street Bridge has been reduced from eight tons to seven. Pratt Road Bridge has been reduced from 19 tons to seven and is scheduled for replacement next year.

Reconstruction of the Stroh Road Bridge is nearly complete and it should open Oct. 1, three weeks ahead of schedule. 

Four culverts in the county of less than 20-foot span were replaced this summer.

The county also completed paving or overlay projects on Indian Falls Road, North Lake Road, North Byron Road, Prole Road Extension, South Street in Pavilion, Colby Road, Hickox, Walker, and Gillate roads in Alexander. 

These projects often included shoulder widening to 30 feet.

The widening has gone over well with residents in those areas, Hens said, who now have more room for walking and biking.

Much of the material used for this work is recycled asphalt from the work at the County Airport to replace the runway and taxiways. This has produced more than 16,000 tons of asphalt for the county to process and reuse.

"It's cheap material," Hens said. "But it's not free. We still have to process it and handle it."

As for county parks, Hens praised the work of Shannon Lyaski, conservation education program coordinator, and Paul Osborn, parks director.

"We've seen year-over-year growth in the environmental programs," Hens said. "We've hit record numbers for revenue and people attending events at the County Park." 

He said Lyaski has done a good job with programming for events at the Interpretive Nature Center.

The revenue generated by these programs cover her salary, Hens said.

As for Osborn, Hens said he's a master at rounding up volunteer workers and scavenging for material for structures in the parks.

"He flips over rocks and pulls people out and he's got people down there cleaning, cutting and trimming," Hens said.

One of the annual programs at the County Park is Camp Hard Hat, which brings in high school students in to build a project under the supervision of a BOCES instructor.

This year, the crew built a footbridge using guardrails Osborn scavenged from the old Stroh Road Bridge.

Attendance has also been up at the DeWitt Recreation Area.

Hens said work on a bridge through the wetlands in the park for the Ellicott Trail should be completed by fall. The county is waiting on the Town of Batavia to finish its part of the trail and Hens is hopeful the trail will open next spring.

For facilities, significant projects in 2018 include a new jail elevator, a security system, new fire alarm for the County Courthouse, and completion of an energy performance contract. For 2019, the county is waiting on a grant for the stonework on the facade of the jail building and a grant is pending for energy upgrades at the Animal Shelter.

In the 20 years since Hens became highway superintendent, the County has invested $30 million in capital improvements, which includes new hangars, a new terminal, and a new runway and taxiways. The funds were all generated by grants or fees for use of the airport and fuel so there have been no direct costs to local taxpayers.

There are 21 jobs at the airport, including private employers, and generates $2.35 million in economic impact.

The airport has brought in more money than it cost in 16 of the past 17 years. Hens anticipates the airport will only break even in 2018 due to a prolonged winter and construction projects.

Pete Zeliff is building a new hangar for corporate jets, which should help generate more revenue for the county through additional fuel sales.

Hens has also been heavily involved in public water projects with several new projects starting this year and more planned for 2019.

PHOTO: Tim Hens in the foreground and Laura Wadhams, the county's new assistant engineer, who started her job a little over a week ago.

February 26, 2014 - 3:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in tim hens, County Highway Dept.

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens is about to fill a role occupied by two of his predecessors -- NYS County Highway Superintendents Association.

What's unique, perhaps, is that Laura Mullen, a principle financial clerk with the highway department since 1957, has work for both of the previous presidents from Genesee County.

That would be Joe Amedick, who served in 1987 and Bob Carrier, who served in 1959.

Now part-time, Hens finds Mullen indispensable.

"She knows where thr vendor files are from ions ago," Hens said. "She knows where bridge files are, road files are. Any bit of information I need, she knows exactly what box it is in in the storeroom."

When Hens started his job 16 years ago, there were no computers. He said he couldn't work like that, so his computer was the first in the department. 

Mullen, already with more than 30 years on the job, jumped right in with automation and took classes at Genesee Community College on her own time, at her own expense, to learn Microsoft Office.

Hens said Mullen will fill in wherever she's needed.

He has his own kind of seniority going. At 16 years on the job, he's the fourth or fifth most senior county highway superintendent among the 57 counties in the state.

The association, he said, serves an important role in helping the state's highway departments and public works departments share information and best practices as well as lobbying Albany to maintain funding for roads and bridges.

If a member has a question, they jump online, ask it, and might get 30 answers.

"You learn something from other counties or something that somebody has already done and that saves you a lot of time and a lot of hassle," Hens said.

September 18, 2012 - 9:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in County Highways, tim hens.

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens made a presentation Monday to the Public Service Committee.  We asked him to write a summary of his presenation to go along with the slide show he created.

Click here to view the slide show.

Here's Tim's message:

I took time from my annual department review yesterday to make a presentation that focused on some of the funding challenges we face as well as some of the brighter highlights from the year so far.

The initial portion of the presentation focused on the difference between capital improvements and preventative maintenance.  Generally speaking, a capital improvement is a significant improvement or total reconstruction of the roadway, whereas preventative maintenance is only a surface treatment or temporary improvement meant to extend the service life of the underlying pavement.  Preventative maintenance is used to keep "good roads good" and it is the best bang for the buck when applied at the appropriate time.  If you were to plot a line of pavement conditions over time, it would gradually drop, and after about 7-8 years, it would start to fall away quite quickly.  The goal with preventative maintenance is to catch the pavement before that line starts to get too steep.  That way we can take a typical 15 year pavement life and extend it out to maybe 30-35 years before it needs a capital improvement, which is very expensive in comparison.

The next phase of the conversation moved on to the cost of materials and construction in general.  Higher material prices have impacted both preventative maintenance and capital improvement costs, limiting the amount of work that can be performed each year.

The presentation then moved back to a quick overview of techniques that are used for preventative maintenance, a comparison of their costs, and a comparison of what was performed in 2012 versus what we should be doing to improve the condition ratings of our system.  As it stands we are generally treading water with our highway system and we are losing ground with regard to our bridges, especially the shorter span bridges which are not eligible for federal aid.  Tighter budgets as a result of unfunded mandates on the county and increasing material prices (mostly due to the cost of oil) are requiring the county to defer maintenance and improvements.  For every dollar deferred, the county will need to spend between $4 and $6 to get the same result (road condition) down the road.  We are falling further and further behind.

When is comes to bridges; the deficencies are significant.  The county owns and maintains 341 bridges.  Of these bridges, only 95 are eligible for federal aid.  The remainder are completely reliant upon local funding and very limited state aid.  More than half the bridges were built prior to 1960 and 53% of the bridges are considered functionally obsolete or structurally deficient by federal standards.  Our average bridge condition rating stands at 4.98 (out of 7) where anything below a 5 is considered in poor condition.  The cost just to support federal aid subsidized replacements is likely to exceed $600,000 per year if we replace the two bridges per year to stay ahead of the deterioration.  Factoring in the cost to replace short-span bridges and the total cost over the next ten years is likely to exceed $10-15 million.  The county currently does not have the capability to fund this need .

The Highway Department will be engaging engineering consultants this winter to analyze the inventory of short span structures the county owns, develop a plan of attack and design a few cookie-cutter solutions so that some of these smaller bridges may be replaced in-house to save money.  There is a need to bond some of the replacments over the long-term so that future taxpayers who will benefit from today's improvements may share in the cost as well.

Some quick slides were shown on the cost of Snow & Ice Control for the county.  A majority of county milage is plowed by Town Highway Departments under contract.  The contract rate is determined using a formula based off the three year average snowfall for the area.  The warm winter in 2011-12 adjusted this rate significantly and the proposed rate to the Towns for the 2012-13 season is much lower.  A quick history of rate adjustments waas presented; as well as a slide showing the limited amount of overtime expended by the county versus what was budgeted as a result of the warm weather.

The presentation ended with a few slides of the DeWitt Recreation Area and the improvements made there as a result of the open winter and available labor and equipment from the Highway Department.

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