Saturday, July 21, 2007 City Officials Optimistic on Airport Deals The Hollister (CA) Free Lance Hollister – City Council members reached Friday weren’t concerned how a plan to build a fire air-attack base at the Hollister Municipal Airport clashes with a developer’s potentially lucrative hangar proposal, and the officials expressed optimism that both types of facilities could be built there. City Councilman Doug Emerson, for one, sees the potential dilemma as a chance for serious talks about the airport’s future. Hollister officials are open, meanwhile, to the possibility of requesting bids on similar jet center projects and choosing the one that best fits the airport’s needs. “We need to make a plan for the airport,” Emerson said. “It seems to me we can accommodate both (the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) and some kind of jet center out there.”
The city has negotiated with Cal Fire since 2001 to lease land there for the air-attack base. The state is pushing for the city to fund a new taxiway and control tower. City Manager Clint Quilter said Friday he didn’t know if Hollister “would ever negotiate to pay for those things.”
A Cal Fire air tanker drops a load of fire retardant on a vegetation
fire that came close to homes July 10 west of San Juan Bautista.
The private developer estimates his proposal for six hangars catering to corporate jet owners would bring jobs, rent money and about $1.5 million in tax dollars annually to the city. Considering the amount of property value or sales needed for that return, Quilter said Friday the number doesn’t “strike me as quite right.”
Councilwoman Monica Johnson is in no hurry to accept the first offer to the city for a hangar development. She sees the airport as Hollister’s “diamond in the rough” and wants to ensure the city studies multiple offers before a decision.
She said the key to improving the airport’s value is making sure the city proceeds in a “strategic manner.”
“We need to look at all the proposals and figure out what will be most beneficial for the city.”
Councilwoman Pauline Valdivia also said she’s open to requesting bids for such an airport development.
She added how she believes Cal Fire belongs at the Hollister Municipal Airport.
“I’m really excited, though, regardless of the outcome,” Valdivia said. “I think the outcome’s going to be good.”
Hollister Airport Manager Bill Gere is convinced there is space for both a jet center and a new Cal Fire building.
“There is a lot of room at the airport,” he said. “But right now we have two groups looking at the same piece of property.”
Gere also pointed out that all plans involving the airport must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We need to closely examine what everyone’s needs are and the benefit to the community,” he said.