Hollister – Airport Improvement Funding On the Way

Friday, March 2, 2007
Airport Seeks $250,000 From FAA
By Anthony Ha
The Hollister (CA) Free Lance

Airplanes line the tarmac at the Hollister Municipal Airport. Airport Manager Bill Gere applied for $250,000 from the Federal Aviation Administration to improve runways. Hollister – Airport Manager Bill Gere hopes to get $250,000 from the federal government in the coming month to repair runways at the Hollister Municipal Airport. Gere is still pursuing tens of millions of dollars in federal grants for airport expansion, but he said the airport must take care of basic maintenance before moving on to more ambitious projects. “We have our book of dreams, while the (Federal Aviation Administration) has its practical requirements,” Gere said. “We ask them for millions of dollars, and they give us half a million bucks.” Fred Meyer, who has a plane at the airport, has been critical of Gere’s work in the past. When told about Gere’s current funding efforts, Meyer said, “I’m glad to hear it – if I can believe it.” Gere is still pursuing tens of millions of dollars in federal grants for airport expansion, but he said the airport must take care of basic maintenance before moving on to more ambitious projects.

“We have our book of dreams, while the (Federal Aviation Administration) has its practical requirements,” Gere said. “We ask them for millions of dollars, and they give us half a million bucks.”

Fred Meyer, who has a plane at the airport, has been critical of Gere’s work in the past. When told about Gere’s current funding efforts, Meyer said, “I’m glad to hear it – if I can believe it.”

Meyer said the airport hasn’t gotten the funds it needs in the past because of Gere’s failure to provide the FAA with the necessary paperwork.

Last year, Gere asked for $43 million to fund airport improvements including the purchase of new land and the construction of new taxiways. The land could eventually be used for a new airport hotel and restaurant, he said, as well as more businesses overall. At the time, Gere said it was unlikely he’d get all of the requested funds.

“You can’t get it unless you ask first,” he said. “You have to play the game and ask for the moon.”

Gere said Thursday that the FAA wants the airport – which houses about 150 planes – to take care of the much-neglected runways before the agency will consider a larger grant. The $250,000 he’s requesting will be used for general runway maintenance, including restriping and crack sealing. Gere also said he’s planning to scale back his larger request from $40 million to $20 million, which would be spent over five years.

At the time of Gere’s last funding application, one hangar tenant said there was a much more serious need for basic maintenance, including fixing potholes on the runway.

Former City Councilman Robert Scattini, who is also a pilot, agreed that the runway needs improvement. Gravel on the runways remains a major problem, he said, because planes can kick gravel off the ground, and that gravel can chip the planes’ propellers.

Scattini added that he hopes Gere will also succeed in getting money for the larger growth plan.

“The airport needs to grow,” he said. “I really hope we do get the money.”

Gere said he should find out about the maintenance grant in about a month.

FAA officials could not be reached for comment.

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