By Ed Runyan
The Western Reserve Port Authority has authorized a new three-year contract with its director of aviation, Dan Dickten, that pays him $90,000 the first two years and $92,700 the third year.
Though three of the eight board members voted against the raise, none of the three would discuss the reason why, saying they would let chairman Scott Lynn speak for the entire board.
Lynn said the ‘no’ votes were because some members felt three years was too long.
“Some board members wanted one year, two years. For most of us, a one-year term didn’t seem like an option. I feel like he’s done a good job, and he’s earned a three-year contract.”
Lynn said Dickten has worked hard and passionately on behalf of the airport, drastically increasing parking revenue, negotiating improved leases with companies operating at the airport and helping to increase the number of passengers at the airport 15 percent to 20 percent per year.
Dickten’s initial three-year contract, which expired Saturday, paid him $75,000 annually.
Lynn said Dickten’s new salary was determined by looking at what other airport managers earn, and whose airports have a similar number of passengers. The average was around $96,500, Lynn said.
“As a board we were not looking at it as a raise. We were looking at it as bringing him up to industry standards,” Lynn said.
While negotiating the contract, port members discussed it with commissioners from Trumbull and Mahoning counties and found them OK with it, Lynn said.
Last July, the port authority approved a one-time $7,500 bonus to Dickten for his extra work on a $3.7 million bond projected he headed up and other things, but Dickten refused the bonus after Trumbull County Commissioner Paul Heltzel protested, saying the bonus sent a bad message to Trumbull County employees who have received a wage freeze for several years.
“We were successful in pulling the airport out of the so-called black hole, but there are still a lot of things to do,” Dickten said after the vote.
He said the airport won’t live up to its full capabilities until daily air service is returned.
“It’s an uphill battle, but it looks like we have some good traction with a couple airlines and we’re going to continue that and pursue and add leisure airlines and service with Allegiant,” Dickten said.
Meanwhile, the board plans to talk about what to do about the contract of the port authority’s executive director, Rose Ann DeLeon, at next month’s meeting, Lynn said.
Her six-month contract expires June 6.
“I can’t speak for the board, but I’d like to see her back,” Lynn said.