The City Council last week approved a quarter-million dollar refurbishment of the taxiway areas of the Gustine Municipal Airport, one piece in an ongoing effort to upgrade airfield operations.
The Airport Commission, council and staff are taking a comprehensive look at the airfield to identify projects and priorities, said City Manager Greg Greeson and Assistant City Manager Sean Scully.
The taxiway project was identified as a priority by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is funding 90 percent of the cost.
“It is one of the things that FAA had identified that they wanted to see us improve on,” Greeson explained. “As they look at airports, that is one of the areas that is important to them.”
Scully indicated that the city has been saving up annual airport allocations from the federal agency, accumulating enough money for the project.
The $268,300 cost came in above the engineer’s estimate of $249,000, but was approved by the council.
Greeson said the higher cost was not unexpected because a spike in petroleum prices has also driven up costs for asphalt and other paving or sealing products which contain oil.
The city’s match will be 10 percent.
The project moves forward as airport commissioners and staff are taking a comprehensive look at the airport to develop a five-year capital improvement plan.
During a goal-setting workshop, commissioners identified a number of areas for further investigation, from evaluating the hangars to considering fuel sales options to developing strategies to attract businesses to the airport.
In the past, there was a waiting list of pilots in line for hangar rentals. Today, Scully confirmed, there is no waiting list and two hangars stand empty.
Lease rates are reasonable, he said, but the condition of the hangars is cause for concern.
“Probably the most common criticism we get of the airport is that the hangars look awful. They are not uniform, we we have reports that some are in poor repair,” Scully commented.
City staff will conduct an inspection of the hangars.
“We are going to go out and do an analysis and review of the hangars, looking at safety and aesthetics, to see how marketable they are and whether they should be replaced,” Scully explained. “We will bring that back to the commission to see if we can get a replacement or improvement plan in place, and just try to work that into the budget.”
The condition of the buildings is the top concern expressed by airport commissioners, he added.
Commissioners also voiced a desire to revisit the current franchise agreement for fuel sales at the airport to determine if better opportunities might be available.
“Fuel is one of the ways we create revenue at the airport. It is probably the most profitable (revenue source) we have, but in recent years it has kind of flat-lined,” noted Scully.
Routine maintenance and economic development opportunities were other topics of discussion in the goal-setting workshop, Scully told Mattos Newspapers.
He stressed that the city is trying not just to develop a plan which can sit unused on a shelf, but to identify feasible projects to upgrade the airport and attract more activity.
“We want recommendations that can be considered for action by the City Council,” Scully emphasized.
As an enterprise fund, the airport is expected to break even financially.
Before the economic downturn the airport was a revenue producer, Greeson said, and more recently the facility is still “pretty much holding its own.”
The airport is an asset which few communities the size of Gustine have, Greeson and Scully said.
“Across the board, from the council to the commission, everybody has acknowledged that it is important,” they commented. “A lot of cities have closed their airports. We think it is important that we find ways for this airport to continue to operate in the black. It has been around a long time, and we want to keep it.”
Original article here.