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Mon, Oct 10, 2005

Missouri Agency's Plan To Buy C208B Criticized

Conservation Department Would Swap Two Aircraft For One

The Missouri Department of Conservation was criticized last week for their plan to replace two older aircraft with a new Cessna Grand Caravan, ostensibly in an attempt to reduce fuel and maintenance costs.

"It’s troubling that no one talked to us about their plans to procure a new airplane," State Auditor Claire McCaskill told the agency last week, according to the Kansas City Star. McCaskill argued that with state budget as tight as it is, the department should have asked her office for a review of the purchase.

Conservation Department Assistant Director Denise Garnier replied the purchase of a new Cessna Grand Caravan, and the subsequent sale of the agency's 23-year-old C402 as well as a half-interest in a Beech King Air 200, is designed to reduce maintenance expenses. There is also no precedent of state agencies consulting with the auditor before a purchase, Garnier stated.

"This is in fact a cost-savings measure," Garnier said.

The Conservation Department believes the sale of the two aircraft will cover most, if not all, of the Grand Caravan. Reduced fuel and maintenance costs on the new aircraft would also help save money -- as much $50,000 per year, said Garnier.

A new Grand Caravan can cost as much as $1.8 million, according to Cessna.

The conservation department presently uses its C402 for law enforcement, habitat surveys, bird counts, and wildlife patrols. The King Air usually carries personnel for administrative duties. The agency also has another older Cessna.

If the purchase is approved, the unpressurized 10-passenger C208B would be used to handle duties previously split between the two other aircraft.

The argument may be a moot point, however, as the Missouri Conservation Commission, which sets policy for the department, rejected a bid Thursday for a Cessna Grand Caravan. The sale price was not disclosed, although Garnier said the submitted price was higher than the commission had expected.

The agency is also looking into purchasing a cheaper used airplane if one can be found, said Garnier.

FMI: www.cessna.com, www.conservation.state.mo.us

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