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"Bid on Hollister Municipal Airport development includes land for CalFire base"



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bid on airport development includes land for CalFire base

By Curtis Cartier

The Hollister (CA) Freelance

 

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The open plot of land where Hollister officials hope a development can spur some economic activity is shown in this file photo. City officials had put out a request for proposals for private development to see what kind of offers they could get. They received one submittal, from Ken Lindsay of Sierra Pacific Associates.

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After years of planning and months of arguing how to get it done, improvements to the aging Hollister Municipal Airport took a step forward recently when private developer Ken Lindsay bid on the multi-million-dollar project.

Lindsay, owner of Sierra Pacific Associates development firm, said his project would cost anywhere from $5 million to $30 million and would "realistically" take three to five years to complete. It includes new hangers and taxiways, a helicopter pad, a new signage plan and augmented lighting.

For some, the most important element might be Lindsay's inclusion among the 20.5 available acres of CalFire's long-proposed air-attack base.

"I wanted to take the role of lead developer and hopefully get this project going and start bringing jobs to the area," Lindsay said. "Bringing in aircraft, especially big aircraft, brings flight crews and maintenance crews along with them. Also they will buy their fuel at the airport and pay fuel surcharges as well as pay property taxes (for hangars). That is a lot of potential tax revenue for the city."

Lindsay said the reason for the large difference in the potential cost of the project rests in the kind of clientele the airport hopes to entice. Building new, large hangars for corporate jets cost $1 million each, Lindsay said, but they bring in much more in lease money and tax revenue than smaller hangars made for prop planes. Lindsay said he submitted three proposals, one catering to smaller aircraft owners, another to larger corporate companies and a third focusing on a mix of small planes and corporate jets.

"I would like to see the mixed-use plan go forward," Lindsay said.

All three plans give room for CalFire to build a new air-attack base at the airport. The base has been an area of contention among city officials since CALFIRE has had state money approved for the project but may lose the funds by the end of the fiscal year - in June - if they don't finalize the plan with the city.

"The city has been holding the plan for three months. They have held meeting after meeting with no action," said CalFire's assistant chief for the San Benito-Monterey counties unit, Reno DiTullio. "Everything the city had asked we have said 'yes' to. We're just waiting for the city to say 'yes' to us."

Chairman of the Hollister Airport Commission, Gordon Machado, said the group is trying to approve the CalFire base separately from the entire airport improvement project, but that it had become a "mutual boggle" and needed revision on both the city's end and CalFire's end.

Machado also said while Lindsay's bid is a step in the right direction, his plan still did not meet the "criteria" of what the city had in mind, and will need some tweaking before it's approved. He also said the airport plan has been unnecessarily rushed though the planning phase and that it "did not get the circulation it needed."

"The whole thing is kind of a mess," Machado said. "I think we missed some deadlines, but also the time frame was too short to get the right people looking at (the plan)."

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