Grand jury finds lack of funds at Yuba County Airport – Yuba County is being asked by a grand jury committee to put more money into the airport to fix conditions it describes as “unsafe and very unsightly.”
In a letter to the Board of Supervisors, the county committee of the grand jury notes deficiencies at the 600-acre Olivehurst facility. They include signs missing or in poor repair, erased lines for taxiways and locations covered with tall grass and weeds.
“The grand jury finds insufficient funds are allocated to the airport to accomplish normal maintenance and beautification of airport property,” the letter states.
The board is scheduled to consider the letter at its 9:30 a.m. meeting March 25, 2013.
County officials acknowledge large cuts in the airport budget in recent years, mainly because of tough economic times that all county departments face.
“No General Fund money has gone to the airport since 2008,” said Doug McCoy, county administrative ser ices director. “Every department has had cuts and the airport is no different.”
The grand jury letter notes the airport budget has dropped 41 percent since 2008-09 — from $632,135 to $369,256.
However, both McCoy and Airport Manager Mary Hansen said the grand jury concerns are more aesthetic than safety issues.
“What they are talking about is scheduled to be done, we are just waiting for the funding,” Hansen said.
She said what still needs to be done is not critical.
“The runways are fine and marked well,” Hansen said.
“The taxiways should be marked, but it isn’t as crucial without commercial traffic.”
As for weeds and grass, Hansen said, “it’s a continual process” to stay ahead of vegetation growth.
“What we try to do is hit the critical areas where the lights are, but the priority is residential breaks,” she said, referring to homes near airport property. “Also, you can’t just go out and mow it down when the ground is saturated.”
Hansen noted the Federal Aviation Administration conducts inspections at the airport and any safety deficiencies that arise are fixed.
Currently, the entire budget for the airport consists of grants — primarily from the FAA — and revenues from rents and leases.
McCoy said $1 million from an FAA grant and state funds were spent last year to redo taxiways. It is planned that the new taxiway lines will completed with another grant next year, he said.
He also said internal steps were taken recently to improve maintenance.
The grand jury letter notes the airport is a “major asset” of the county, saying the addition of new businesses and the proposed casino near Forty Mile Road will increase usage.
It asks the Board of Supervisors to respond within 14 days.
Possessory tax allocations
A letter from a Yuba County grand jury committee refers to possessory interest taxes collected from businesses on airport property, including those at the nearby industrial park.
Possessory interest is the intent and right of an occupant to exercise control over a specific plot of land.
All of those possessory interest tax revenues go into the county’s General Fund, the letter notes.
Doug McCoy, director of Yuba County administrative services, acknowledges that is the case.
The Board of Supervisors could change the allocation of possessory interest taxes, McCoy said.
“But it would mean taking it from somewhere else,” he said.
The letter doesn’t specify the amount of possessory interest tax collected from those airport business. An amount wasn’t immediately available on Monday from county officials.
But the letter notes that “an increase of 10 percent ($36,925) to the 2011-12 airport budget would enable airport personnel to improve the safety and appearance of the airport.”