Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Commission recommends airport expansion
Proposal to study consolidation is rejected
By Julie Fernandez
The Tulare (CA) Advance Register
Sticking to its original recommendation, the Aviation Commission has called for expansion of the Tulare airport and rejected a proposal to study possible consolidation. The commission, conducting its second public hearing on the matter in five days on Monday, heard from 14 people, most of whom opposed consolidation.
The idea to study consolidation of Mefford Field came from City Manager Kevin Northcraft. He asked the City Council to include that option in a master plan study, suggesting the airport has been an obstacle to economic development.
Commissioner Ben Thrasher said consolidation has no place in a master plan study.
“If we include it, we shouldn’t even do the study,” Thrasher said.
Many who spoke Monday suggested the city is not putting enough effort into developing the airport and adjacent properties.
“I have noticed the slow death of this airport, and it makes me really sad,” pilot Kathy Langton said.
Businessman and pilot Ron Overacker said his Structures Plus business, which borders on the airport, is an example of how the airport and businesses can not only co-exist but enjoy a symbiotic relationship. Every time his business has flown in or met people at the airport, it has resulted in a sale, Overacker said.
“Let’s not be forced to choose between the airport and development,” he said. “Obviously, they can co-exist.”
Ellen Gorelick, curator and director of the Tulare Historical Museum, and Karen Hill, who has been active in the county historical society, spoke of the historic value of the airport and its main hangar.
“We’ve lost too many landmarks,” Gorelick said.
Cadets trained at Mefford Field before the Rankin Aeronautical Academy was completed during World War II, Hill said.
In their vote, aviation commissioners said they want the consultant to study the feasibility of extending the length of the airport runway to 5,000 feet, which would allow larger aircraft to land here.
The Tulare City Council will discuss the airport question at its regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Chambers, 125 South M St.