Low Sutter County airport lease rates rising Jan. 1
The Sutter County Airport isn't going to be closed, at least not anytime soon. And what is being proposed isn't going to put the airport in private hands, either.
But in order to get the airport's finances flying straight, if not on an upward trajectory again, there are changes coming to the general aviation airfield near Garden Highway in Yuba City.
For the three private businesses at the airport, the first changes come Jan. 1, when lease rates go from two-thirds of a penny per square foot to 2 cents per square foot, with more hikes to come in future years.
Though owners of the affected businesses have said they may have to move elsewhere as a result, studies by the county have shown rates lagging below market level compared to other airports and airstrips.
But for the airport's overall operation, the critical test will come when a group of pilots who've formed a nonprofit group called the Sutter Buttes Regional Aviation Administration present Sutter County officials with a plan to take over the airport's management.
"What I want to see in the plan is something that gives us in detail how the maintenance would be done and gives us a cost statement," said Sutter County Supervisor Jim Whiteaker, who sat on an ad hoc committee to study the airport's beleaguered finances.
Interim County Administrator Shawne Corley said rising expenses and accounting controls have made the airport a financial issue, particularly in monetary diversions from the county's general fund.
If the pilots group covers some of those expenses rather than the county, the airport's budget should be balanced again in a few years, she said, with higher revenues also helping close the airport's deficits.
"Part of this is to make sure there's a clear understanding of all that's required," she said of the pilots group plan, which the county should receive by late spring.
Joe Borzelleri, a member of the regional aviation administration, said what is being proposed is achievable.
"You can go in and do it a lot more efficiently when you have a passionate group of people who care," he said.
Much of what his group's activities in taking over airport management would be done with volunteer labor, he said.
Even if the airport is in a transition, people inside and outside county government said they're still optimistic about its future.
"One of the options is always, don't have an airport, but no one wants that," Corley said.
Sutter airport has hit its own 'fiscal cliff'