The lnyo County Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday, September 6 to consider a County Budget that, among other achievements, could help pave the way for commerc¡al air service at the Bishop Airport.
lncluded in the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 CAO Recommended Budget is a matching contribution to a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to fund continued planning and improvement projects at the Bishop Airport.
The contribution would total $96,140 and come from a County Trust, to match a $1,573,208 grant from the FAA. ln addition to the completion of the Airport Layout Plan and Narrative, the grant and matching funds, if approved, will also pay for airfield striping, marking, crack-sealing, and terminal fencing improvements.
There are projects that are following on the heels of about $5 million worth of work already completed at the airport over the past couple of years, including installation of a backup generator and new airfield lighting.
Additionally, the Board of Supervisors will be asked to identify an additional $55,000 in County matching funds in anticipation of receiving another FAA grant for $900,000 to complete the first phase of an apron rehabilitation project identified as one of two improvements necessary to meet the infrastructure requirements needed for commercial air service.
The Recommended Budget also proposes partial funding for the other needed improvement, a passenger terminal. During a July 26 presentation to the Board of Supervisors, Public Works Director Clint Quilter explained that these projects, and more to come, were informed by a prior visit from an FAA western region representative who visited the facility and told the County what needed to be done in order to gain Part 139 certification.
A Part 139 certificate allows airports to accept commercial aircraft. Quilter said to date, Airport Layout Plan is 80 percent complete and will be finalized after completion of the second phase of a Passenger Traffic Study, which will include reviewing existing aviation demand forecasts, economic trends, tourism trends and historical aviation trends, and preparing short- and long-term annual forecasts and peak hour forecasts.
The study and improvement projects are all part of an etfort to help bring the best commercial air service to the region possible, whether it’s at Mammoth Airport, Bishop Airport or even lnyokern Airport.
An objective comparison of the three facilities, however, shows Bishop as the best location and having the best facility – with the widest and strongest runways, fewest weather-related issues (wind and snow), and zero airspace constraints. According to CAO Kevin Carunchio, the County wants to see if this resource can be used for the benefit of not just tourists coming to the Eastern Sierra, but also residents traveling out of the area on vacation or who need to commute for work purposes.
However, while lnyo County has a great asset in the Bishop Airport in terms of providing commercial air service infrastructure, both Quilter and CAO Kevin Carunchio acknowledge that the County has little or no experience operating a commercial airport. During his July 26th presentation to the Supervisors, and as part of a similar presentation made at the August 17th Town of Mammoth Lakes Town Council meeting, Quilter said recent discussions with the Town of Mammoth Lakes, which has a lot of experience running a commercial airport, have focused on several options for collaborating on a regional solution, including: leasing the Bishop Airport to the Town of Mammoth; entering an operational contract with the Town; entering a joint entering an operational contract or Joint Operating Agreement with the Town, or using Bishop Airport for flights that for whatever reason can’t use Mammoth Airport.
The Eastern Sierra Council of Regional Governments, at the suggestion of lnyo County, agreed at its July 29 meeting to recommend formation of a subcommittee comprised of County and Town of Mammoth Lakes representatives to evaluate the most efficient way to expand and diversify long-term regional air service to the Eastern Sierra.
The Town Council took action to support the ESCOG’s recommendation by designating two council members to participate in meeting with lnyo County officials. During Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board will be asked to formally appoint Supervisors Jeff Griffiths and Mark Tillemans to that subcommittee.
The appointments will take place before budget discussions begin in the afternoon. The Recommended Budget will be considered by the lnyo County Board of Supervisors when the County’s Budget Hearings commence at 1 p.m. during the Board’s regular Tuesday, September 6,2016 meeting in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, in lndependence.
By State law, County Budget Hearings may extend for 10 consecutive days, and the County has until October 2,2016, to adopt its final budget for the year. The entire Fiscal Year 2016-2017 CAO Recommended Budget document is available online at the County’s webpage, www.invocounty.us, offering the public an opportunity to review the proposed $95,978,087 spending plan coming up for possible adoption.
Publication of the Budget comes as the result of many weeks of analysis, calculation, research, meetings, planning, writing, and review by staff Countywide.
For those looking for lighter reading, also available on the County’s webpage is the lntroduction & Summary of the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 CAO Recommended Budget. The lntroduction & Summary, or Budget Message, looks at the “big-picture” fiscal challenges and opportunities faced by the County this fiscal year.
A hard copy of the Fiscal Year 2016-2017 CAO Recommended Budget is available in the Board Clerk’s Office at the County Administrative Center in lndependence,224 N. Edwards St.