Stockton Airport Plans Hinge on Aeromexico Bid

STOCKTON -- A year after pitching the idea of international air travel to and from the Stockton Metropolitan Airport, Barry Rondinella, director of the county-run airport, has two of the three parties on board.

Now all he has to do is make sure Aeromexico Airlines is still interested.

"We're in discussions right now," Rondinella said.

San Joaquin County supervisors last week unanimously approved spending $26,250 for the design of a $5.4 million, 15,000-square-foot inspection station and terminal.

While the county will spend $26,250, Federal Aviation Agency grant money will provide the remaining $500,000 for the design costs.

Customs and Border Protection, which had previously rejected the design, agreed on the new plan in October.

The federal agency had earlier denied the county's request to be an international airport based on the proximity of other such airport designations, including Sacramento, Oakland and Fresno, according to Rondinella. But with the help of Valley congressional leaders, the agency changed its mind, he said.

Last week, Rondinella gave San Joaquin County supervisors three options for the inspection station and terminal, with the least expensive --

$5.4 million -- one that is separate from the present terminal.

The county already has

$2 million in federal money toward the $5.4 million and anticipates another $150,000 in fall 2007 and $1 million in 2008, 2009 and 2010, Rondinella told supervisors last week.

The $5.4 million price tag was different from a year ago, when the outside inspection station was more expensive, Rondinella told supervisors.

The other options would have cost $6 million and required the terminal to be upgraded to comply with code, he said.

Last year Aeromexico signed a letter of agreement to provide three days of service between Stockton and Guadalajara, Mexico, for one year.

But that was last year and it was only an agreement, not a contract, Supervisor Leroy Ornellas said.

"I'd like to see a contract with Aeromexico that they will stay in operations for one full year," he said.

Besides a contract and one year of service at the Stockton airport, Ornellas said he also wanted the Mexico-based airline to invest $500,000 after 30 days for security and lights in the parking lot, and that the

$250,000 for marketing come from private sources, not the county.

"That would make me feel more comfortable before we move forward with $6 million," Ornellas said. Stockton and several Spanish-speaking radio stations have provided the $250,000 for marketing, Rondinella said. As for the other demands, including a new contract, Rondinella said he would try to "entice them into doing what the board has asked me to do." Although an agreement is a contract, he said.

"These things are pretty high level," Rondinella said. "We'll certainly ask the questions."

If the airline agrees to county demands, the final design phase will take about nine weeks, with the bids going out for the inspection station.

The anticipated start date for air service is in the fall of 2007, Rondinella said. "Hopefully, before the holiday season next year," he said.

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