By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
As the Missoula International Airport gears up to design and build a new passenger terminal, it has undertaken efforts to reorganize its staff, a move that will help it maintain operations while moving through the multi-year construction project.
Airport Director Cris Jensen said this week that he and airport staff have explored ways to prepare for the large terminal project while also running the airport and managing continued passenger growth.
“We’re going to do a staff reorganization as we roll our way into this terminal project,” Jensen said. “We’ve been concerned about having sufficient bandwidth for all of our employees to run our existing operations, which keep us plenty busy, plus take on this rather large construction project.”
Jensen said the airport considered a number of options that included hiring a consultant to represent the airport during the construction project. They also considered hiring a technical employee to free up staff for other duties.
In the end, Jensen said, a staff reorganization emerged as the best option. That will see assistant airport director Brian Ellestad serve as the project manager during construction of the terminal. It will also result in the promotion of Jesse Johnson, who will oversee airport operations.
“(Ellestad) will actually become the project manager for the terminal, and we’re going to move all the operational departments that today report to (Ellestad) and shift them over to (Johnson),” said Jensen. “That will free up some of (Ellestad’s) time. He’ll still be responsible for air service development, as well as the terminal project.”
After months of work, the Missoula Airport Authority in October approved an update to the Terminal Area Master Plan, clearing the way for engineers to design a modern facility that’s expected to begin construction next year.
As envisioned, the plan includes a terminal offering eight gates designed to accommodate larger jets and more passengers. Security would expand from three lanes to four, and baggage claim would nearly triple in size.
While the budget has yet to be finalized, the project would be entirely funded through airport reserves and federal grants. Construction would likely start in June of 2018, with the first phase opening to passengers in 2020.
The last phase would be finished in 2021.
Jensen said the staff reorganization should help with the process.
“We believe this a good initial step,” he said. “But if, after making the changes, we still feel like we don’t have enough bandwidth, we can reconsider the other two options.”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at firstname.lastname@example.org