Tuesday, December 7, 2004
A.V. in holding pattern over acquiring airport
Officials admit they could have done a better job
By LEROY STANDISH
The Victorville (CA) Daily Press
APPLE VALLEY – After causing a public brouhaha earlier this year, the town is resurrecting its quest to win control of the Apple Valley Airport. San Bernardino County, Adelanto and Hesperia officials were taken by surprise when the town petitioned the Local Agency Formation Commission in January to wrest control of the airport away from the county.
Town officials now admit they could have done a better job at the outset. Those they have offended seem to have cooled and are now saying there is room for compromise, perhaps paving the way for the town next year to gain control of the 556-acre airport at the end of Corwin Road in north Apple Valley.
“I think we probably didn’t assume that it was going to be as much of a political issue as it turned out to be,” Councilman Scott Nassif said. “We could have done a better job in our marketing approach. I think our reasons are sound, but I don’t think we marketed ourselves very well.”
The town submitted a plan to LAFCO in January. It was based on continuing to tax the municipalities in County Service Area 60 – Adelanto, Hesperia, Victorville and Apple Valley – collecting $1.2 million in taxes annually for airport operations. But the plan failed to give those cities equal input on how the airport was managed.
“Taxation without representation” is how Tad Honeycutt, Hesperia’s mayor pro tem, saw it.
Honeycutt also was unhappy that no one from Apple Valley bothered to approach him about the plan.
“The way I found out about it was reading it in the newspaper,” Honeycutt said.
Apple Valley Councilman Mark Shoup said the town’s actions made it seem like Apple Valley was trying to be sneaky.
“I think some of the officials in some of the other cities may have reacted before they realized what we wanted to do,” Shoup said. “Some of them think we were trying to ram this down their throats.”
Adelanto Mayor Jim Nehmens said LAFCO, not the town, notified him of Apple Valley’s plan.
“Bottom line is it would have been nice to get a phone call from them (the Town Council), and sitting down to a meeting,” Nehmens said.
Though bruises have been inflicted by Apple Valley’s perceived smash and grab tactics, Honeycutt said the rift between the communities is healing.
“There is definitely a desire to compromise and I definitely don’t have any problem with Apple Valley running the Apple Valley Airport,” Honeycutt said. “I think they would do a fine job with it.”
Victorville has always supported Apple Valley’s airport aspirations. It wants the town to make the airport a hub for general aviation enthusiasts and draw them away from Victorville’s Southern California Logistics Airport. Victorville would then be free to increase its share of commercial and corporate air travel, said Victorville Councilman Mike Rothschild.
The town has yet to submit a revised plan for service, one that is agreeable to all members of County Service Area 60, to LAFCO. In a recent letter to the city, LAFCO gave the town a Jan. 7 deadline to submit a revised plan. It also informed the town that County Service Area 60 will have its funding reduced by 40 percent for the next two years, due to the state’s budget crisis.
“That throws a curve ball, if you will, into the process,” Nassif said. “We obviously have to reevaluate the situation based on the funds shift to the state … It still may not even be feasible for the town to take it over.”
Brad Mitzelfelt, chief of staff to First District Supervisor Bill Postmus, said the 40 percent cut combined with objections from CSA 60 members was a “double whammy” for Apple Valley’s bid for the airport.
“The primary consideration is that taxpayers have accountability, that the representatives that are spending their tax dollars are accountable,” Mitzelfelt said.
He said the county has yet to be convinced the town truly needs control of the airport.
“It wasn’t necessarily broken, so why fix it?” he said.
Mitzelfelt said the town’s voice is being heard, and it always will because the airport is within its boundaries.
The newest member of the Town Council, Rick Roelle, said he favors local control of the airport.
“If the town can afford it and not be a drain on the general fund … then I support it,” Roelle said. “I don’t think we need to go out on a limb and go in debt over it.”
Neither Shoup nor Nassif see the town submitting a service plan acceptable to all parties by January, but they do see a revised effort to go about acquiring the airport.
“In the coming year the town needs to establish the relationships with Hesperia, Adelanto and Victorville,” Shoup said. “I still think the town needs to acquire the airport.”
Nassif agreed and said more options need to be examined, including possibly partnering with the county, which runs the Apple Valley airport along with five others in the county, “on a plan that benefits the county and the town,” he said.