Tuesday, October 4, 2005
State nixes Oceanside airport’s loan request Airplanes sit on the tarmac at the Oceanside Municipal Airport on Thursday.
By BEN FRUMIN
The San Diego (CA) North County Times
OCEANSIDE —- The state has turned down the city’s request for a $450,000 loan that would have paid for 10 new hangars that are needed to make the Oceanside Municipal Airport self-supporting, a city official said Monday. Without the rental income that would be generated by those 10 proposed hangars —- the airport already has 41 —- the small airfield will be $40,000 to $50,000 in the red each year, said Peter Weiss, Oceanside’s public works director.
By this year or next, the city fund dedicated to the airport, which includes grant money and income from existing hangar and tie-down rentals, would dry up without the additional hangar rents, and the airport would need support from Oceanside’s general fund to stay open, he said.
With ever-increasing construction costs, Weiss said state officials decided last week that it didn’t make financial sense to honor Oceanside’s loan request.
“If your income isn’t high enough, or you’re spending too much, they’re not going to lend you money,” Weiss said, noting that city officials believe the new hangars would make the airport a moneymaker.
Weiss said the city will now begin exploring commercial loans or private partnerships to fund construction of the 10 proposed hangars, adding that such endeavors would require the approval of the City Council.
The council has recently wrangled over the future of the small airport north of Highway 76, which has been a political hot potato for years. A familiar majority composed of Mayor Jim Wood and Councilwomen Shari Mackin and Esther Sanchez voted last month to hire an independent consultant to study the best use of the airport’s 36-acre property.
The 3-2 vote —- Councilmen Rocky Chavez and Jack Feller dissented —- came minutes after Sanchez asked city staff members several questions about what it would take to close the airport.
Members of the council majority have said in recent weeks that the airport is a drain on the city’s economy and imposes tough development restrictions on valuable neighboring properties along the Highway 76 corridor.
Still, there’s conflicting information on what the city’s obligation is in keeping the airport open.
Some officials have said that it will be nearly two decades before Oceanside would be allowed to close the airport, noting that government regulations require cities that use federal money for airport projects, as Oceanside did last year, to keep runways open for 20 years.
But a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said this summer that because Oceanside used federal money to purchase land, as it did in 2003 when it bought 14.7 acres adjacent to the airport, that the city must keep the airport “open in perpetuity.”
Despite recent indicators that some on the council are opposed to airport expansion and enhancements, the public works director said the city’s staff will continue to explore funding alternatives for the new hangars until the council directs otherwise.
Weiss said recent anti-airport statements and direction from the council majority did not adversely affect the effort Oceanside put forth in trying to bag the state loans.
“Did we try as hard as we can?” Weiss asked. “Yeah, we did. Because I need to make sure (the airport) can pay for itself.”
Weiss said he expects the council to vote Oct. 12 on whether to issue an official request for proposals from consultants interested in performing the land-use study of the 36-acre airport property.