City seeks airport management committed to upgrading facility

OCEANSIDE -- The city issued its official request yesterday for companies interested in improving and leasing Oceanside Municipal Airport.

According to the document asking for bidders, anyone who wants to manage the airport for 20 to 30 years would have to build it to specifications in a master plan approved by the City Council in 1997, pay off the airport's debts and give the city 10 percent of gross revenues in rent.

The operator would not be allowed to run a flight school or rent aircraft to earn income, according to the request for proposals.

The airport debt exceeds $1 million: $486,000 to the city's general fund and $740,500 to settle a state loan.

The master plan calls for providing 50 hangars -- there are 34 now, but 23 are old and in various states of repair -- and 41 airplane tie-downs. It also specifies construction of a new administration building with a cafe.

At the end of the contract period, all improvements would belong to the city, which operates the airport now.

Firms who want to take on the job have until Oct. 16 to submit proposals. Gary Gurley, general services manager for the city, said 67 planes are based at the 44-year-old airport, which is two miles northeast of downtown Oceanside along state Route 76.

The 3,000-foot-long runway accommodates general-aviation craft weighing less than 12.000 pounds.

Ben Meyers, president of Oceanside Airport Association, composed of pilots and other airport boosters, estimated yesterday that the requested improvements would cost $6 million to $10 million.

An economic analysis prepared for the city last year by the San Diego consulting firm of Keyser Marston Associates Inc. was included with the request for proposals. It indicates potential net annual revenues rising from $18,000 now to $1.7 million in 20 years.

Meyers said he expects seven or eight bidders. But he also expects them to come in with alternate proposals that seek to remove some restrictions.

A meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Sept. 27 for potential bidders, airport users and the general public at the airport administration building.