City wants counties to help fund airport |

City wants counties to help fund airport

Robert Stern

The South Lake Tahoe City Council is looking for funding partners to assist with the Lake Tahoe Airport.

The crux of the plan is to gain partnerships with Douglas and El Dorado counties to contribute to the airport, which costs the city $500,000 to $550,000 a year to operate.

At a workshop Tuesday, City Manager David Childs said he didn’t think it was right that the city of South Lake Tahoe with a population of 23,000 people should support the Lake Tahoe Airport, which serves the entire region.

“Their residents benefit from it just as much as the people of South Lake Tahoe,” Childs said.

The workshop was intended to discuss with the City Council the request for proposal sent out to consultants to create a strategic marketing plan for the airport. The marketing plan is a result of a directive the council gave to the airport commission in April.

The strategic plans are due August 20 and a plan is supposed to begin by Dec. 7. The city is going to pay $25,000 for the plan and El Dorado County could contribute $10,000 of that funding if approved during the county budget hearings Sept. 9, said interim county Chief Administrative Officer Tom Soike.

But Mayor Hal Cole asked why a strategic marketing plan is needed to justify the value of the airport.

“Is this an action plan or is it some consultant telling us the value of the airport?” Cole asked.

Cole asked that the strategic plan include a breakdown of financial benefits to both El Dorado County and Douglas County.

Discussions of a potential partnership have already begun, but neither Douglas County or El Dorado County have made any commitments.

The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority contributed $100,000 a year from 1993 to ’96 with a pass through from Douglas County room taxes, but that contribution was halted because of inconsistent commercial air service that resulted largely from the airport master plan settlement agreement of 1992, which limited the number of flights and noise levels at the airport, said Douglas County Commissioner Don Miner.

“We want to see a more visible component to tourism contributed by the Lake Tahoe Airport,” Miner said. “We think it could be very productive and beneficial with appropriate service.”

Miner defines appropriate service as three flights a day, five days a week. With only charter service and general aviation, Miner does not consider the Lake Tahoe Airport a vital contributor to the Douglas County economy.

Soike said without seeing the proposed strategic marketing plan it is too early to comment on El Dorado County’s potential role in funding, but he said El Dorado County supports the airport.

“That is an issue that would eminate between the results of the study and discussions between the city and the (El Dorado County) board of supervisors,” he said.

Councilman Bill Crawford said he was unsatisfied the City Council did not have an opportunity to review the request for proposal before it was sent out. The RFP was written by Childs, Airport Commissioner Carl Ribaudo and airport/transit manager Mike Dikun.

Both the City Council and airport commission conceded a lack of communication between the two entities and “mistrust” was used to describe the relationship between the City Council and the airport commission. But tension over the airport is not a new thing for city officials, who have been criticized for spending too much money on the airport.

“We need to be on the same page, and if we are not we need to get on the same page,” Cole said.

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