Airport weight debate goes to commissioners |

Airport weight debate goes to commissioners

A proposal to analyze what might happen if Minden-Tahoe Airport loses federal funding goes before Douglas County commissioners on Thursday.

Assistant Manager Steve Mokrohisky is suggesting commissioners have staff analyze potential options for maintaining the airport without federal funding.

The county has already lost some federal funding which was destined to pay for a tiedown ramp on the east side.

County commissioners were told in August that $684,474 in federal funding was withheld due to the county’s failure to alter the entry in federal publications.

The county has been in a letter war with the Federal Aviation Administration since August 2004 when then-airport manager Jim Braswell received a letter referring to a 2002 pavement survey conducted by the Nevada Department of Transportation.

The weight limit listed in the federal airport layout plan was the same as that revised by voters in 1992 and that’s listed in the county ordinance now on the books.

However, the NDOT assessment accepted by the state and the federal government said that “operations of an aircraft in the 60,000 pound and 75,000 pound classes, if restricted from a few areas, should not have a significant impact on pavement performance.”

Part of the problem is that most airport work is funded by federal dollars. In the nearly quarter century between 1984 when the first airport ordinance was approved and 2008, the federal government has poured $18.75 million into the airport, while the county has paid $12.15 million. Each time the county took money from the federal government, its representatives signed assurances that the airport would be maintained for the next 20 years.

While some point out that it is unlikely the federal government would try to recoup the money, the FAA could be less likely to continue to provide funding to the airport that did not comply with the assurances.

The county has been gathering information from the public for nearly three months of meetings and include nearly 100 questions and comments in its packet for Thursday’s meeting.

The county has until its Feb. 4, 2010, meeting to determine the language for an ordinance to appear on the November ballot.

“Throughout numerous public, community group, neighborhood association and stakeholder meetings over the past six months, Douglas County has provided information, responded to questions and received numerous comments on the federal compliance issue at the Minden-Tahoe Airport,” Mokrohisky said in his report. “Additional information has been requested regarding the potential options for maintaining the airport if the county is held in non-compliance and does not receive federal funds for required maintenance work.”

The county presented three options to the public, two of which included new weight limits and restrictions on the growth of the airport. A third option would leave the weight out of the ordinance, but increase restrictions to limit growth.

The current airport ordinance has never been enforced. County officials have said they are seeking ballot language that would allow those violating the ordinance to be fined.