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Consultants could study airport plan

Jenifer Ragland

The Airport Commission tonight will tell the city what it thinks of the idea to study the prospect of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority taking over management of the Lake Tahoe Airport.

Up until now, the advisory board has not taken an official position on the matter, said Janis Brand, airport spokeswoman.

Brand is recommending the commission support the hiring of Aires Consultants, Ltd. – a Morgan Hill, Calif.-based firm – to conduct a study to determine whether such an idea is legally, politically and financially feasible.

The proposal, which will go before the City Council and the LTVA board the fourth week in May, is for the two organizations to split the cost of the study – estimated to be about $20,000.

But LTVA Board Chairman Don Miner said he will need to see more detailed background information before supporting any financial contribution, including the $10,000 for the feasibility study.

“If (city officials) understand the scope of the study and what it includes, then let them pay for it,” he said. “But if they are asking another agency to share the cost, the board of directors needs to be brought to the level of understanding the scope of the problem.”

Specifically, Miner asked for a packet of information on history and previous studies, financial background, sources of revenue and expenses for the past five years, operational goals and objectives, restrictions and limitations, and timing considerations to be distributed to each member of the board.

“It’s real easy to go out and hire a consultant who tells you what you want to hear,” Miner said. “It doesn’t get any of my support until I see the background, and what the goals and objectives are. Then you may bring in a consultant to show you how to get those objectives.”

While the city is preparing a proposal and scope of the project, City Manager Kerry Miller said most of the information Miner is requesting is what the consultants are expected to evaluate.

“We want to depoliticize the airport, make the airport as operationally efficient as possible and reduce to the greatest possible extent the amount of money going to subsidize the airport,” he said. “These are the goals, and we’re looking for the answers in this study. We don’t know what the answers are.”

Miller said he would be happy to give anyone on the LTVA board past airport budgets and anything else the city has available, but does not see how that information would be useful without the analysis of an outside consultant.

He added that he feels the LTVA is very much up to speed on airport issues, as they were the lead agency in the effort to retain commercial service there.

Mayor Tom Davis, who serves as the City Council liaison to the Airport Commission, said he thinks it is imperative to explore every option to revitalize the airport.

“This community needs to know what the airport means to the city,” he said. “It’s an asset, but people perceive it as a liability.”

Keith Swanson, chairman of the Airport Commission, agreed with Davis.

“I think airport is at a crossroads. We need to make it as profitable and efficient as we can with or without commercial service, and we need to look at all the alternatives to do that,” he said. “I’m in favor of (the study).”

Davis said if hiring the consultant is approved by both boards, the money from the city would likely come from a contingency fund.


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