Future of Tracy's Airports Up in Air

Small California town debates future of its two GA airports.

TRACY, Calif. -- One city, two airports, two different worlds.

One sees regular traffic, houses nearly 100 planes and has a sky full of potential. The other is mostly used for training new pilots and remote-controlled aircraft, and the city has tried, unsuccessfully, to unload it.

The Tracy Municipal Airport and the New Jerusalem Airport -- both under the jurisdiction of the city of Tracy -- eventually could be built up to complement each other, but currently they leave a lot to be desired.

Amid promise and turmoil, the Tracy City Council could enter into a deal later this month to improve New Jerusalem with a developer who happens to control a majority of property around it. Meanwhile, city officials are optimistic they can energize the Tracy Airport, even after the only commercial business there shut down last week.

Tracy City Councilwoman Suzanne Tucker is making the Tracy Airport her pet project, looking for construction of a new entrance, a shade structure in the park and the opening of a concession stand.

"It's not like there's nothing going on around here," Tucker said. "This is the city council's airport. We've got to make some investments, and we want some action items brought to us that have money to spend from the general fund."

In October, four members of the city's airport commission abruptly resigned, and without enough members to call a quorum or new commissioners appointed, their regular monthly meetings have been canceled. Jaime Locquiao felt it was time to leave because the commission's "voice is not freely heard, staff members overstep their authority, and controls are in place to watchdog the commission."

"After carefully reading the bylaws, I now strongly feel that staff has acted inappropriately in an attempt to control the actions of this commission," Locquiao wrote.

City staff was directed by the council not to fill the vacancies as a concept for a new Transportation Commission, which would provide a higher level of advice on various transportation issues, was explored.

Meanwhile, the only business at the airport shuttered its operation at the end of January.

Lloyd McFarlin, president of Port City Aviation, the parent company of the Tracy Flight Center, informed the city he was moving his operations after 15 years of continuous service.

Without city staff's support for growth, basic infrastructure and maintenance, the airport ultimately will have little or no value to the residents of Tracy and therefore holds no value for business to grow there, he wrote.

"Our efforts here at Tracy have been as much a labor of love for aviation as a labor of business, so it is with many mixed feelings that brought us to this conclusion," McFarlin wrote. "I am not going to get into a conversation laying blame here nor there."

He felt the airport had great potential when they started selling fuel and other items back in 1992 and still believes so.

One city official said McFarlin left with multiple years remaining on his lease and owing the city about $12,000. He also relinquished his rights for selling fuel.

In a report done last year by the Boyd Group, which specializes in examining aviation resources, two short-term priorities were listed for 300-acre Tracy Municipal Airport, including the reclamation of fueling rights and building more hangers.

Rod Buchanan, the city's assistant director of parks and community services and airport manager, said the city has taken over selling fuel at the airfield, and hopes to attract more pilots with lower fuel prices than airports in Livermore and Byron.

Of 75 full hangars at the airport, 24 are under private control, and the city generates about $150,000 in revenue annually. Electricity and drainage already are in place in three areas identified as possible sites to add more hangars, with plans to add 44 more

T-hangars -- so-called because of their interior shape -- which would generate $180,000 more in the near future.

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