Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Council squanders airport potential
By LEON J. PAGE
The San Diego (CA) North County Times
Their intransigence is appalling.
The Oceanside City Council continues to squander the opportunity to generate millions of dollars in additional revenue at the city’s municipal airport. At the same time, the council fails to take any action to resolve one of the city’s most divisive political disputes. Isn’t that what they were supposedly hired to do —- to practice good government and solve problems? Some members of the City Council simply refuse to take any action to make the airport a success. They say that they are waiting for a study to tell them what the best use of the land might be.
That’s a sham. City officials admit that, for at least the next 16 years, or until the year 2022, the city is legally obligated to maintain the municipal airport. In 1995, 1996 and then again in 2002 the city accepted grants from the Federal Aviation Administration that obligated the city to maintain the airport for at least 20 years. Pilots and airport supporters contend that the city is actually obligated to maintain the airport beyond 2022, since the FAA grants were used to purchase real property.
Either way, the question of what should be done with the airport property is simply not before this council.
Nor is it reasonable to expect the FAA to release the city from its legal obligations. In a Nov. 8 letter written to Congressman Darrell Issa, FAA Administrator Marion Blakely stated that the FAA does not anticipate granting any request for release to allow closure of the Oceanside airport.
If council members Shari Mackin, Esther Sanchez and Jim Wood could accept the reality that the airport is here to stay until at least the year 2022, the council could then reach a happy agreement as to what to do in the short and medium term to make the airport a success.
Additional tie-down spaces, or, better yet, inexpensive, temporary “port-a-port” hangars could be built at little or no cost to the city.
If the council is unwilling to accept any more FAA grants, the city could sell three years of occupancy in a new hangar or tie-down space to generate, upfront, the cash to pay for the improvements.
And then, after the first three years, the city would reap the windfall profit from the newly constructed tie-down space or hangar for the remainder of the improvement’s useful life, or until the FAA authorizes the city to close the municipal airport.
Think of the possibilities. One hundred twenty temporary port-a-port hangars, at a rental rate of $500 per month, could generate an additional $11.5 million in new revenue over the next 16 years. That additional revenue could be used to retire existing debt, beautify the airport’s facilities and generate further economic activity at the airport site.
The council should recognize that it is impossible to predict what Oceanside will need 16 years from now. The council should put away its crystal ball. It should not let disagreements over the airport’s future prevent it from making the airport a success today.