OCEANSIDE — Updates on improvements to Oceanside Municipal Airport were shared on June 24, and met with residents’ concerns.
The discussion was seemingly comparing apples to oranges with Airport Property Ventures (APV) listing steps forward, and residents asking the City Council to consider another airport manager.
Following the meeting Doug Eddow, city real estate manager, defended the airport management company and said progress has been made.
“Things are moving forward, they’re paying their rent,” Eddow said. “Are they moving as fast as one particular individual wants them to? No. Improvement have been made, and there are plans for future improvements.”
Statistics shared by APV looked on the bright side of 69 full time tenants, five aviation businesses, and $385,000 collected in rent last year. Additional revenues were generated from aviation and jet fuel sales, which paid $26,000 to the city.
Over $1.1 million has been awarded in state and FAA grants to develop an airport layout plan, upgrade water lines and the terminal building, update the Airport Master Plan, fund perimeter fencing, and repair gates.
An additional $126,323 was spent on airport repairs and maintenance, the airfield, terminal building, grounds, gate and hangar repairs, and fuel tank and jet truck maintenance.
A major improvement made last year was the renovation of 23 hangars from top to bottom with new roofs, doors and floor repavement.
A draft of the Airport Master Plan is completed, which is pivotal to securing FAA funds for safety improvements. The plan looks ahead to accommodate 90 based aircraft.
It calls for pavement improvements, new airfield signage, and a fixed base operator area.
Phase II improvements include a terminal facility to house a restaurant, meeting rooms, restrooms, and showers.
The final phase of improvements adds a public viewing area, and develops the north side of the airport for aviation use.
A key factor in improving the airport is to have the master plan in place, and make FAA required airside safety improvements, before ground improvements are made.
Once the master plan is approved, FAA safety requirements — which include runway repavement, taxiway placement, and airport layout — can be addressed, with most of the costs funded through state and FAA grants.
Gordon Nesbitt, president of the Oceanside Airport Association, a group of non-pilots and self-proclaimed watchdogs for the airfield, was among those who shared concerns about the current management.
Nesbitt criticized the management company for being slow to develop the airport, and the lack of a noise abatement program to address neighbors’ concerns.
Updates by APV were shared as an information only item. Public comments were not addressed by the management company or the city.
After the meeting Eddow said the development process is being slowed down to allow community input on the Airport Master Plan.
“Are they moving as fast as they originally set forth? No,” Eddow said.
“We’re moving slower than normal due to requests of having more meetings. You normally don’t have nine public meetings for an airport this size.”
Eddow added development is also slowed by the lack of market demand.
He said through the two-year public meeting process, it seems pilot and airport tenant questions have been satisfactorily answered.
However, he said residents continue to ask the same questions, even after the management company has investigated and replied to them.
Eddow added it seems some residents are unhappy with answers that cannot be changed.
Noise complaints have been addressed by APV through pilot training, suggested flying routes, signage, and follow through with the FAA.
Air trafficking and imposing penalties are in the hands of the FAA.
“Noise is the purview of the FAA once a plane leaves the ground,” Eddow said.
He added even with suggested routes in place a pilot is allowed to make flight adjustments due to weather, air traffic and other factors.
On June 24, Nesbitt said the company’s inexperience with day-to-day operations is causing safety concerns.
“Safety issues have gone unrecognized and we believe APV staff may have put federal funding at risk through the selective enforcement of discriminatory access polices,” Nesbitt said.
Safety complaints shared at the meeting included reports of allowing hot fueling of a plane while its engine was running.
Eddow said the fueling complaint was looked into by APV, and discouraged, but found to be allowed with the type of fuel used.
Eddow said he sees improvements from when the city managed the airport, and did not spend general funds to maintain and upgrade it.
“They (APV) definitely handle noise complaints better, they’re physically there, and their incentive is different,” Eddow said. “They want to keep tenants happy. They put more resources towards the airport than the city would.”
APV took over management of the airport in 2009, and signed a 50-year lease with the city. The company originally had three principals. One principal bought out the other two a year ago.
Six years ago Oceanside Airport Association members were excited about the future of the airport. An airport management firm had just been selected which touted an impressive aviation resume and “solid” financial resources. That firm, Airport Property Ventures, promised to staff the airport with experienced and credentialed professionals, to rapidly develop the airport using a common architectural theme and to implement a “Comprehensive Noise Abatement Program” that would address the concerns of airport neighbors.
Now six years later, we are disappointed. As it has turned out, APV has no prior experience in managing a small airport like Oceanside. The current airport staff has had little or no professional training or previous experience with the day-to-day operations of any airport. Safety issues have gone unrecognized and we believe APV staff may have put Federal funding at risk through the selective enforcement of discriminatory access policies.
The promise of a common architectural theme has been forgotten and APV’s noise abatement program has lost the confidence of airport neighbors.
APV has expressed a desire to withdraw from the contract if an agreement can be reached. Clearly, APV has lost interest in “Unlocking the value of Oceanside Airport”.
The Oceanside Airport Association believes it is time to “cut bait”, come to terms with APV and to begin a competitive process seeking a more capable and motivated contractor.
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