FAIRFIELD — Solano County has allowed a possible transportation jewel -the Nut Tree Airport – to languish under poor maintenance and management. The Board of Supervisors hired Aviation Management Consulting Group in April after airport concerns were brought to its attention. The board will consider AMCG’s report at its meeting today. The airport “has numerous weaknesses and threats” but “should be developed and leveraged as an economic engine for the region and not just a recreational facility,” AMCG wrote.
Aronson hopes county leaders will see the airport’s potential and act accordingly. “I think they got some answers that may not be easy to take,” Aronson said. “They have to put a lot more energy into it.” Charlie Jones, the county’s transportation director and interim airport manager, said he was aware of some problems identified in the report but that others came as a surprise. “There are probably some things that could have been managed a little bit better,” he said.
One surprise was AMCG’s finding that the Aviation Advisory Committee, formed by the county in 1969, was “unclear as to whom it is advising and what responsibilities … it has.” “I wasn’t aware that they weren’t sure of what their responsibilities were,” Jones said. “I think that would have been something they would have to bring up with a previous airport manager.”
The airport manager John Swizer, retired in September. Aronson said airport users complained often about airport management.? People sometimes felt they didn’t exactly get the truth from (Swizer),” he said. “That was just the leadership style he showed.”
AMCG reviewed airport finances for the past five years and records dating back to 1982. It also interviewed county supervisors and airport tenants and users. AMCG found the airport sells fuel too cheaply, lacks a marketing plan and is being maintained below industry standards. Airport staff and tenants also pile trash next to buildings and there is no plan for a bomb or other terrorist threat.
AMCG believes airport improvements will help bring more aircraft, businesses and revenues to the airport. The county should redefine the roles of its Aviation Advisory Committee and the Airport Land Use Commission, made up of the same members.
The airport houses about 250 aircraft. Its budget was about $700,000 last fiscal year.
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