Palo Alto's effort to take over operations of the Palo Alto Airport from Santa Clara County is expected to get a lift tonight (Monday, Dec. 6), when the City Council considers opening a new city fund to pay for airport management.
But a new city staff report warns that there will be serious challenges in the city management of the airport, and even working on the transition will stretch staff resources and divert them from other city priorities.
The airport, located in the Palo Alto baylands area, has been managed by the county since 1967 under a 50-year lease. County officials have indicated in recent years that they will not be renewing the contract.
On Oct. 19, the council's Finance Committee recommended that Palo Alto take over airport management before the agreement with the county expires in 2017.
The committee reached its conclusion after receiving a report from consulting firm R.A. Wiedemann & Associates indicating that the airport could bring the city a hefty long-term profit -- though this profit would have to be reinvested back into the airport. The report also indicated that it would be very difficult for the city to close the facility because of Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
But running the airport locally will also entail many challenges, according to a new report from the city's Administrative Services Department. The report acknowledges city doesn't have the expertise to manage the airport, or to even hire the personnel to operate the facility.
Staff also remains uncertain about whether the city should manage all airport operations, hire a third party to operate the facility, or manage a fixed-base operator.
The airport takeover presents the city's Public Works Department with another major project at a time when the department is stretched thin because of vacancies and other time-consuming projects, such as library renovations and the restructuring of the city's garbage-rate system, the report states.
Joe Saccio, deputy director of the Administrative Services Department, wrote in the report that the airport transition will require "considerable in-house staff time," which would otherwise be devoted to existing priorities.
The council will also consider tonight whether to contribute $300,000 into a new Airport Enterprise Fund to pay for consultants and legal expenses relating to the transition.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. with a closed-session to discuss a lawsuit from Janet Pierce stemming from a July 2008 bike accident on Bryant Street. Pierce filed a lawsuit in January claiming she fell off her bike as she was riding over metal plates that the city installed to cover holes in the ground.
The regular meeting will begin after the closed session in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave. (View the agenda)