Two might submit bids to run airport

OCEANSIDE -- The city may get at least two bidders interested in running the Oceanside Municipal Airport.

But they probably are going to ask city officials to ease up on financial requirements, including that anyone operating the San Luis Rey Valley airfield must pay off more than $1 million in debts.

No bids were received by Tuesday, the original deadline. Potential bidders had asked for a little more time, and a notice of an extension was posted on a construction Web site last Friday.

The new deadline is 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

City Council members voted in May to get out of the airport business and seek a private operator to take on the task, from operations to new construction.

One potential bidder said he had just gotten airport expense reports from the city and was studying them.

Scott Wardle, regional director of operations for American Airports Corp., based in San Diego, said he will probably recommend to his superiors that they make a proposal to operate the airport.

"We will seek variances," said Wardle, whose company operates five airports in Los Angeles County.

Expense and revenue reports prepared by City Manager Peter Weiss show great fluctuations from year to year in both expenses and revenues at the 50-acre airport.

From 2000 to 2007, annual expenses varied from a low of $179,000 to a high of $456,000, while annual revenue ranged from a low of $173,000 to a high of $2.7 million.

In some years there was more income than expenditures, and in other years there was less.

The city's request for proposals specifies that an airport operator must provide 50 hangars, 40 tie-down spaces and a new terminal building with a restaurant. It also seeks a payback of $1.2 million in debts and 10 percent of gross revenues in rent. An operator would not be allowed to run a flight school or aircraft charters.

Also ready to submit a bid is C. Lance Barnett, vice president of CMTS, with headquarters in Culver City.

Barnett said yesterday that he's put together a limited-liability corporation that includes Gene Hassing of Gig Harbor, Wash., one of a half-dozen separate potential bidders who attended an information session on Sept 27.

One of the other potential bidders at that meeting, Leland Ayers, has written a letter to the city that seems to decline submitting a proposal.

"Our team has all the qualifications to build and operate this airport," Ayers said, but he figured that what the city is asking for would cost almost $13 million, and the operator would go in the hole $1 million a year.

The project, under the city's conditions, "simply does not make financial sense," Ayers said.