Siskiyou supervisors to assess airport woes

Siskiyou County’s airports have struggled in recent years, but the potential loss of the Happy Camp airport has some residents concerned that their essential emergency services will take a devastating hit as well.

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors spent its previous two meetings discussing the state of the county’s five airports, including expenditures and revenue, federal and state grant obligations, county resources weighed against unmet needs and how the county will move forward in airport management.

The Happy Camp airport in particular has received a great deal of attention, due in part to safety concerns that the county does not have the resources to address.

County Administrator Tom Odom told the board Tuesday that Happy Camp residents are concerned both with the potential impacts airport closure would have on aerial medical evacuation services and the United States Forest Service’s ability to combat fires using aircraft.

County Director of General Services Randy Akana assuaged some of those fears by noting that pilot services currently providing medical evacuations will continue to do so using helicopters.

He said the companies will not be providing their airplane-based services any longer, however, due to the myriad issues existing at the airport.

Adding to the maintenance and safety issues, Akana noted a new designation from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Happy Camp airport will eliminate $150,000 of federal funds.

On the USFS side, the board is hoping to create an ad-hoc committee to discuss the agency’s plans for continuing use of the airport and how the two entities can work together to ensure that fire fighting services will not suffer due to the airport’s woes.

The supervisors voted Tuesday to add Happy Camp to the list of airports that consulting firm Mead & Hunt will analyze in the coming year. The analysis, according to agenda documents, will include an assessment of the profitability and sustainability of the airports, as well as the costs of addressing the various safety issues plaguing them.

The board previously directed staff to draft a request for proposal for a fixed base operator at the Siskiyou County Airport near Montague. An FBO is a commercial business that maintains and services aircraft at an airport.

The FBO request and draft analysis proposal are both expected to come before the board in 2015, along with future discussions of potential revenue generation strategies informed by the analysis.

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