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Airport funding on hold

South Lake Tahoe City Council put funding for airport maintenance on hold Tuesday night.

Janis Brand, airport administrative assistant, asked the council to supply matching funds for Federal Aviation Administration grants, which would leverage more than $900,000 for design of maintenance projects. Other FAA grants would be needed to pay for construction.

City Councilwoman Brooke Laine said continually funding the airport is irresponsible of taxpayers’ money.



“How long can we do business like this before we put a sword in our own chest,” she said.

Not everyone on the council felt the same way.




“Just because the airport isn’t generating the revenue projections from six or eight months ago doesn’t mean you throw maintenance out the window,” said Councilwoman Judy Brown.

Airport staff had anticipated nearly $45,000 from passenger facility charges, a $3 fee per passenger for departing planes. But because the airport doesn’t have the anticipated commercial service none of these funds have come through.

If the airport does not get commercial service by Sept. 30, the city would need to supply a $50,000 match to get design of these projects off the ground. But the council tabled the issue and is waiting for mid-year budget figures before making any decisions.

Brand, however, is optimistic that the City Council will fund the projects once it has an opportunity to review the finances in detail.

“I have no worry,” Brand said. “I am 99 percent confident they will fund it after they review the mid-year report.”

The maintenance projects, Brand said, are mandated by the FAA. She said that if the city does not come through with a match for grants it has already accepted, it could affect the city’s ability to get grants in the future.

Brand is pushing the urgency of City Council approval and said design for these projects will take between four and five months and need to be finished by Sept. 30. Otherwise, FAA funding for these projects will be lost.

City Council will revisit the issue in May.

Councilman Bill Crawford was leery of spending money on a department he said should be generating a profit.

“We keep paying for an airport at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars that doesn’t function as an enterprise,” he said.

Sidebar:

South Lake Tahoe City Council Tuesday approved funding for a contract tower program with the Federal Aviation Administration in which the city will pay 40 percent of air traffic controller costs.

“I think the tower is absolutely critical,” said Councilman Tom Davis.

Last fall City Manager David Childs went to Washington to meet with congressional representatives and FAA representatives to be included in this cost-sharing agreement.

Childs said to the council before it voted that not following through on the deal could look bad for the city.

Through March 2000 the city was paying $61,000 per year for air traffic controllers. The city is now paying $49,000 each year. But under the new plan, which will begin May 1, the city will be paying $105,500.

The city was facing a cancellation of all funding for air traffic controllers. City staff is pushing for a more favorable agreement in which it would pay between 10 and 20 percent of the total cost, which would cut expenses significantly. Action on such changes is expected later this year.


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