City, LTVA discuss airport privatization study |

City, LTVA discuss airport privatization study

Jenifer Ragland

Before releasing operation of its airport to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, the city of South Lake Tahoe must determine if it’s even possible.

A feasibility study will be conducted this month, and a final vote by the City Council and the LTVA Board of Directors is expected by the end of May.

Talk of privatizing the airport began in January from Destination 2000 – a committee charged with reducing the city’s long-term budget.

While allowing the LTVA to assume operations of the airport would not produce any direct savings, committee members feel putting the airport in the hands of people who are in the promotion business potentially could revitalize it.

Janis Brand, airport spokeswoman, said the firm recommended for the job – Aires Consultants, Ltd. – would provide the necessary analysis.

“A lot of things need to be looked at for any of us to form an opinion,” Brand said. “They would do a study and analysis of the current management structure, possible management structures, look at revenues and expenses and areas where those can be changed or improved.”

The airport has been without commercial service since early summer 1996, and operating on a deficit of about $300,000 – subsidized by the city’s 2-percent Transient Occupancy Tax promotion fund.

Ron Spellecy, LTVA executive director, said the preliminary estimate for the consultant is between $15,000 and $20,000. Assuming the contract is approved, the study should take about 60 days.

Part of the discussion will be whether or not the LTVA should share the cost of the study with the city, Spellecy said.

The LTVA board will get an update on the study at its meeting Thursday, but will not vote on the issue until May 22. The item most likely will be on the City Council’s agenda for May 20.

“I think what the board will ask the city to do is formally ask or tell LTVA what they would like us to do,” he said. “In doing that, we will take it under advisement and hopefully come back with a decision quickly.”

Spellecy said he hopes the study, if approved, will help to answer some of the many questions people involved in both the LTVA and the city have about the proposal.

These include whether or not the LTVA can legally run the airport under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, if the change benefits or hurts the LTVA or the city, and if there are ways to make the airport self-sustaining so that a subsidy from the TOT fund would no longer be necessary.

“These are questions everybody’s got,” Spellecy said. “We need to make sure everyone is on the same playing field and see if we can make (the airport) profitable.”

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