Airport reorganization adds role to manager’s duties
Expect major internal and external changes down the road for the Lake Tahoe Airport.
The South Lake Tahoe City Council approved a reorganization of the department on Tuesday that replaces the airport manager post with one that delves into solid waste. The vote was 4-0 with Mayor Tom Davis absent.
Instead of reporting to city Public Works, the person occupying the position of Transportation, Solid Waste and Special Projects would answer to City Manager Dave Jinkens.
Jinkens said the switch would save the city about $20,000 per year. It’s unclear where current Airport Manager Mike Dikun would fit in. He’s on a family leave of absence.
Pay for the new position would start in the $60,000 range annually. Beyond managing airport operations, the staffer would oversee the city’s refuse collection contract. The post does not replace the Clean Tahoe Program, Jinkens said.
“I think the airport is an asset not fully realized for its transportation value and economic value,” he said.
The airport has become ground zero for proposals outlining major improvements and changes to its operation.
These upgrades and alternations could run the gamut – from a full-scale airport/industrial complex to a meadow, as Councilman Hal Cole put it. Cole sits on a subcommittee with Councilwoman Kathay Lovell to explore the highest, best use of the airport.
“As we know, something has to be done at the airport,” said Lovell, who has supported a visitors center there. That’s still on the table, too.
City staff has proposed relocating the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce offices at midtown on Lake Tahoe Boulevard to the airport.
Three options will come before the council at the Sept. 7 meeting.
Council candidate Stephen Reinhard, who made several appearances at the podium to speak on agendized items, said he objected to any suggestion that has limited prospects of bringing in more revenue.
Reinhard also spoke on auxiliary airport business – in particular, the transfer of the lease of Chase’s Bar & Grill at the airport from owner Mike Weber to Granite Bay restaurateur Sam Ahn. Reinhard asked why Weber, who’s selling the eatery as he runs for council, was not evicted for allowing $14,500 in city-owed back rent and utilities to accumulate. He also opposed the turning over of the restaurant lease – amounting to $500 a month – to another party.
“It’s a sweet deal – especially if payment of rent is optional,” Reinhard said.
Since the majority of the amount owed to the city consists of utility bills, the city asked for a separate gas meter so the new business owner would be responsible for paying the utility. Along with that concession, the city approved the transfer upon escrow closing on the condition the bills be paid up. Weber agreed.
In addition, the council approved the channeling of federal and state grant dollars amounting to $392,350 to be earmarked for improvements that upgrade security access to the airport.
Money issues to fund the airport tower has made the Douglas County Commissioner’s agenda for Thursday. The city is trying to get funding partners as fees of tower operations through the Federal Aviation Administration are doubling by October.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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