Private Club Or Public Airport?

by Mark Scaramella, November 24, 2009

The unspeakable was spoken at last Wednesday's Community Services District board meeting, beginning with an oblique suggestion that airport access fees be increased.

Airport Manager and CSD trustee Kirk Wilder pointed out that the FAA does not like and will not fund airports with “through the fence access.” Wilder also noted that the FAA has determined that there are no aircraft “based” at Boonville International because Boonville’s private planes are not on airport property but in neighboring private hangers. The FAA also says that residential buildings in direct contact with airports are “totally unacceptable.”

Therefore, the FAA position is that Boonville International, which began as a convenient open field for Buster Hollifield to put down his little Cessna in 1962 but has since grown into a fenced, paved air strip nearly as contemporary as any in the County should not receive federal dollars.

The initial reaction to this federal abdication was that the Anderson Valley's airplane people simply pay for tiedown space at the air strip, thus making them appear to be “based” on airport property rather than out the bedroom windows of their adjacent owners. At present the long-term tiedown fee is a dollar a day or about $30 a month, which Wilder said was low compared to other small airports. Wilder suggested that excess fees be increased from their current $100 per airplane per access to $360 per year.

Wilder also reported that it looks like the state will withhold $10,000 in so-called CAAP funds next year. These funds derive from aviation gas taxes and are distributed to airports for basic operational funding. Wilder said that if this revenue dried up and federal funds were no longer available the airport might have to close because repairs and upgrades could not be financed.

Board chair Andrea LaCampagne spoke the unspeakable, spoke it in boldly irreverent terms.

She said that many people in the community have the view that the airport fees are low constituting “a private boondoggle for private pilots.”

There it was, the truth in all its bracing splendor, but a truth so stark it didn't register.

Bryant Whitaker, the blunt-talking former Airport Committee chair, said he thought that it was premature to increase the fees since the district has not been officially told that the state is withholding the CAAP funds.

Trustee Diane Paget said that it would be prudent to increase the fees in the light of the reduced state revenues so that the district would not have to borrow money to finance future airport repairs and upgrades..

Whitaker argued that the proposed fee increase was too small to replace the loss of CAAP funds or to pay for anything major anyway.

Wilder said that if state and federal funds dry up, ordinary operational maintenance would decline over time and the airport would deteriorate.

Paget suggested that the issue be turned over to the Airport Committee to develop a proposal to the Board concerning access and tiedown fees. A proposal from the Airport Committee is expected by February so that any increase can be implemented by July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

In other developments—

A committee has formed to prepare for the District's 40th anniversary next year.

Paget informed the Board that the Methodist Church acquisition process has been put on hold.

Downtown Improvement surveys will be sent out to residents of the downtown Boonville area soon, which led inevitably to the question of Glen Ricard’s combined eyesore and firetrap on the south end of Boonville. Two board members said they want to revisit the Ricard Problem to see if anything can be done to remove the constantly deteriorating skein of rambling shop fronts that Ricard refuses to repair or sell.

Options include a formal District letter to Ricard asking him to abate the problem, pressuring the County Building and Planning Department to do something about it, or implementing the fire code state fire code to give the District more authority to abate nuisances. (Although none of these options have worked in the past.)

So far Mr. Ricard has ignored all correspondence on the subject while he maintains a scrupulously upscale home on the bluffs at Little River along with his spiffed-up properties in downtown Mendocino that he would not be allowed to abandon by Mendocino's vigilant property owners. Ms. Paget said that it's possible that the developing anything on the Ricard property might be difficult because of water availability. Ms. Paget has apparently forgotten that Ricard's building once housed the Anderson Valley Health Center, a laundromat, a bar, and a feed and grain emporium, and a health food store. All at once. There was no water shortage then. Besides, that would be factored in to any property deal that might be made.

Several field trips are being planned by the Teen Center/Recreation Committee. In January a Donner Pass overnight adventure is planned, weather permitting, and sans the outdoor eating experience Donner is most associated with. (A Donner survivor is buried at the Fort Bragg cemetery. She lived to a well-done old age, I suppose you could say, none the worse for her brief descent into cannibalism as a teenage girl.) The board approved this field trip for $2,000 and 18 students out of the teen center budget, including stipends for three chaperones.

The Teen Center's vivacious coordinator, Meade Williams also proposed an “overnight cultural experience” during the Christmas break to the San Francisco Academy of Sciences. Students would stay at the San Francisco Hospice and spend part of their time at the Asian Art Museum and/or the Museum of Modern Art. The Board approved another $1000 for this Frisco outing.

The Teen Center's second annual roasted chestnut fund-raiser will purchase 35 pounds of locally grown chestnuts at $3.50 a pound from Jim Klein who will also loan students his barbecue and roasting tray as the locally rare delicacy goes on sale at the Unity Club’s annual bazaar on December 5. An estimated $300 in net revenues is anticipated. Ms. Williams, who has brought an unprecedented energy to her work with local teenagers, also plans a “Hendy Woods Walk & Picnic” including mushroom identification training on Saturday, November 21.

Williams said she wants to hire a second coordinator to cover hours when she cannot be on hand at the Teen Center. The only candidate is a young man named Aaron Cobb who wants to set up a bike shop at the Teen Center where students can learn to fix their bicycles or build bicycles from parts.

The updated local phone book will be available sometime in December at about $15 each or two for $24. Proceeds benefit the Teen Center.

Construction will begin soon on the Rancho Navarro fire station. Chief Colin Wilson says some 12 persons have expressed interest in working on the project, including two contractors who live at Rancho Navarro. The current budget for the station is estimated at $72,000. It could be completed by next spring.

Perhaps small town America's most extravagant purchase ever — Yorkville's spiffy brand new fire engine — has come in at a mere $251,000 including tax, less than the nearly $300,000 that had been budgeted, and expect the quarter mil purchase price to be advertised as a net savings.

Chief Wilson told the board that his aging fire truck and command vehicle finally gave up the ghost and that he was now using a modified pickup truck the District recently acquired for no cost from the feds. This interim vehicle has been equipped with a water tank and fire fighting equipment salvaged from the Chief's dead truck. Chief Wilson said he would propose a more suitable vehicle for himself soon.

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