Friday, July 23, 2004
East Kern Airport District approves $12.6 million budget
By ALLISON GATLIN
The Antelope Valley (CA) Press
MOJAVE – The East Kern Airport District board of directors approved a $12.6 million budget Tuesday, an increase of approximately $3 million over the previous year. That increase will help pay for major improvement projects at the airport, including lengthening a runway and taxiway upgrades, funded through grants and Federal Aviation Administration monies.
These capital improvements total more than half the airport’s budgeted expenses, at $6.8 million.
“Next year the airport will look different than it does today,” General Manager Stu Witt said.
The runway and taxiway projects are vital to the future growth of the airport, because runway and taxiway capacity are the basis for all other business, he said.
“We have X amount of money and X amount of staff, and how do we want to set our priorities?” Witt said.
The expansion and improvement projects also should directly benefit the local economy. “We’re making every effort to contract out as locally as possible,” Witt said.
The budget was approved unanimously, with Director Dick Rutan arguing for even more capital investment.
“We’re in a growing and expanding market for the next 10 to 15 years,” Rutan said. “We should invest in capital improvements wherever we can.”
One area Rutan would like to see the district invest in is a delayed hangar project on the west side of the airport.
The project, which would provide additional hangars for rent, originally was proposed by an outside developer, but the project was deemed too costly.
The district has not opted to take over the project because its resources are occupied with other improvements.
Although it would be beneficial for the district to own the project itself, “We just don’t have the resources now,” said Director Jim Balentine.
In an effort to bring in new businesses to the airport, Witt recently visited China to talk with several freight companies interested in operations on the West Coast.