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New flight plan for Sutter County Airport?
After years of being up in the air, the fate of the Sutter County Airport could be close to landing.
County supervisors have set a study session for Dec. 4 to look at raising commercial tenancy rates for the airport, in the latest bid to get the flight center's fiscal house in order.
But at least one of those airport tenants said the intended effect will be the opposite of the result.
"There's two crop dusting companies here, and they have the ability to move," said Jim Stadel of Stadel Aircraft, a repair and maintenance outfit with more than 20 years at the airport. "I don't see how they can push this through without negotiating with us."
Supervisors, in voting for the study session as part of Tuesday night's meeting, didn't discuss what possible changes to make to its lease rates for the airport.
But Supervisor Stan Cleveland said in his mind, there's little room to argue the private businesses at the airport aren't getting a good deal.
"In fact, for many, many years, they've been receiving a taxpayer subsidy," said Cleveland before Tuesday's meeting, noting the airport's budget has been supplemented by the county's general fund for sometime. "That has to end."
On a separate vote about overall revisions to the county's budget, Supervisor James Gallagher said he didn't like phrasing the general fund contribution to the airport as a loan when the money probably won't be paid back.
"If it's a loan, what's the interest rate? Normally, a loan has a set time for payments, and a set time to be repaid. The money is spent here, and it's gone," he said. "Now the question is, how do you move forward."
Before the meeting, Cleveland said it's possible the rates could be raised to still be below market value, but also put the airport's budget into balance. County public works officials have said under the current structure, the airport faces deficits of $20,000 annually well into the future.
Along with the discussion over airport lease rates, however, is a related but separate discussion over who operates the airport.
Stadel and others involved with the airport said they'd like to see if a not-for-profit group, calling itself the Sutter Buttes Regional Aviation Association, could take over and manage the airport better.
Joe Borzelleri, a Yuba City resident, pilot and mechanic, said the group could make the airport more cost efficient, citing maintenance as an example.
"I feel if they go ahead and approve the increase as they've proposed it, the tenants will leave," said Borzelleri, who added he favors an initial increase in leases, but holding off on any raises beyond that until the not-for-profit group can try its hand at management.
Supervisors have said they're open to the idea, though some county staff have questioned whether costs could be cut much.
Separately, a matter involving the airport's partial inclusion in Yuba City is likely to come before the county's Local Agency Formation Commission in the near future.
As part of the consent agenda, the board voted to ask the commission to detach 15.15 acres from the city and assign it to the county, at the request of the county's tax assessor.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at email@example.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.