Tuesday, November 8, 2005
City to seek approval to close municipal airport
By JAMES BURGER
The Bakersfield Californian
Chances are the answer will be “no.” But it looks like Bakersfield City Council members are still going to ask the Federal Aviation Administration if they can close Bakersfield Municipal Airport. Three of the seven council members voted in committee Monday to send a formal packet of information to the FAA asking for closure of the airport.
The full council will vote on the idea Nov. 30.
“We’ve been advised we’ll probably have a negative answer to this,” said Vice Mayor Mike Maggard.
The FAA just doesn’t close airports.
So why even ask to close one? asked George Sturges Jr., who owns a hanger and rents a second at the municipal airport on South Union Avenue.
Maggard said the council hopes to get an answer from the FAA one more time and then move on.
But Councilwoman Irma Carson still hopes for more than a negative answer from the federal agency that helped the city buy the airport in 1985.
She thinks selling the ground to developers for a mixed-used residential and shopping project would bring jobs and redevelopment to southeast Bakersfield.
“It’s really an area that wants things the other parts of the city have,” she said. “We just want to do what’s right for the city of Bakersfield.”
Joe Campen, an airpark user who opposes its closure, said homes and “quickie-mart” jobs aren’t what the people of the southeast need.
If the city really thinks converting the airpark is the right plan, “they ought to open up these areas for industry and get some jobs for people who live in the area.”
Sturges said the city knew it was taking on the obligation to run an airport for decades every time it took a grant of FAA money to improve the airport.
The last time that happened, said City Manager Alan Tandy, was two months ago. Sturges said the city is going to get a bad reputation if it tries to squirm out of the airport deal with the FAA.
“They send the message that the city of Bakersfield cannot be trusted – that a deal is not a deal,” Sturges said.
People get out of deals with the federal government all the time, Carson countered.
Developers have begun to plan homes and other building along Cottonwood Road to the east of the airport and city staffers have limited where they can build because of the flight footprint of the airport.
Carson said several developers have shown interest in purchasing the more than 200 acres of airport property.