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Hangar policy debate intensifies

Erich Sommer

At least for a day, everybody that wanted a hangar out at the Truckee Tahoe Airport had one – But that’s only because the July 18 board of director’s meeting was held in one.

Although the special board meeting was called solely for the purpose of discussing the district’s hangar policy, the venue wasn’t intended to be symbolic.

Instead, it was because the 50-or-so people that turned out would never have fit into the airport’s cramped boardroom in the terminal building.

At issue was the district’s policy regarding the hangar waiting list, which currently has more than 200 people on it.

After a chaotic beginning and nearly a full day of accusations, discussion and debate, the board directed the staff to formulate a new set of policies that will include several significant changes, but will drop the district’s 6-month experiment in giving district residents preference on the list.

That policy was far more controversial than any of the other changes that were actually made.

In January, General Manager David Gotschall began re-enforcing what he said was a pre-existing policy that gives district residents on the hangar waiting list the first chance at a vacant hangar.

That policy was first established under then-district manager George Edmondson in 1982.

But chief among the concerns voiced by those opposed to the policy was that its enforcement could exclude the airport from grant funding by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA ruled in June that granting district residents preference is incompliant with their grant-funding requirements and could result in the loss of millions of dollars to the airport.

In a letter to Gotschall, Tony Garcia, an airport compliance specialist with the FAA, said the airport “is creating dissimilar treatment for the same type of airport user, based solely on where the user lives … the fact that certain users pay local taxes, while others do not, does not justify preferential treatment…”

Garcia’s letter was merely fuel to the fire of many whom opposed the policy.

“Are you going to tell people ‘Hey, you can’t use the public restroom because we pay for it,” Richard Cabrinha, a part-time resident, asked the board rhetorically.

In addition, critics contend that that policy was moot after a 1993-policy instruction was passed which stated hangar assignments will be determined solely by the order of the waiting list.

In the end, the board heeded the warning of the FAA, and directed staff to draft a new set of proposals regarding hangar management, minus preferential treatment for district residents.

Formal adoption of those guidelines is expected in August.

“We are going under new guidelines,” Gotschall said afterward. “There is no preferential treatment … but they [FAA] don’t expect us to go back and kick anybody out of their hangar. But the board said they need to follow FAA guide lines.”

Though admittedly disappointed that the policy will no longer be enforced, Gotschall said he felt addressing the policy was long overdue.

“People were trying to make this into ‘my Alamo,’ but it isn’t. I just want to do things right,” he said. “It wasn’t pleasant bringing this up, but I think it was good to get it out into a public forum … I personally think district residents should have first shot, but it’s done and won’t have to addressed in another ten years.”

With that issue resolved, the board was able to tackle additional policies governing the waiting list.

“There was a lot of housing keeping stuff done at the meeting,” Gotschall added.

Changes included adjusted rental rates and how long someone can stay on the list without accepting a hangar.

Right now, of the 212 people on the hangar waiting list, the top 70 to 80 have notified the district that they will “pass until further notice,” Gotschall said. But those that pass don’t lose their place on the waiting list, and some have continually passed up chances to take a hangar.

“I have somebody that has been on list for 20 years,” Gotschall said, adding that it makes it hard to gauge how much a demand for new hangars there really is.

That is important, Gotschall said at the meeting, because the district is considering building up to 80 new hangars.

On July 25, the board adopted a policy that will give those on the list one year from the time a hangar is offered to decide if they want it.

“After that, you’re off. You can reapply, but you go to the bottom of the list,” Gotschall said. “Within a year, I should be able to ascertain what the real demand is.”


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