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County looking to share airport management

By Tom Hubka

Wescom News Service

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors says it wants to share the management of the Jack McNamara Field Airport in Crescent City with some of the major governmental players in the area who rely on the airport's success.

The county, which owns the airport and pays out $250,000 annually for its operation, is considering forming a Joint Powers Authority with potential partners, such as Curry County, the cities of Brookings, Gold Beach, Ore., and Crescent City, and the Smith River and Elk Valley rancherias.

Del Norte County Supervisor David Finigan met with the Brookings City Council Friday morning to discuss the possible partnership.

Finigan said the board believes the airport, located in Crescent City, was a strong link to the county's economic growth. But its effects were not limited to Del Norte.

"I am looking for partnerships," Finigan told the council. "The JPA is appropriate because anyone who is affected by the airport's success should have a seat at the table."

Under the proposed agreement, the JPA would consist of three Del Norte supervisors and one representative from each new entity. The county would continue to pay for the airport's operation, Finigan said, and new members such as Brookings would not have to give any money.

So why is Del Norte County offering to share management of the airport while it continues to pay for it? Future upgrades, such as new businesses in the main terminal, which is scheduled for an upgrade in coming years, are a big part of the answer, Finigan said.

"We need to start looking at that airport a heck of a lot differently," he said.

For example, if Brookings wanted to propose a new addition or change to the airport, it could do so by helping with the project's funding, Finigan said. Currently, the Del Norte Board of Supervisors has sole control over the airport.

There are other ways besides money new members could contribute, Finigan said. If a member wanted to push a project through for the airport, it could supply support in the form of attracting new businesses.

The prospect of adding new airlines to the airport deals more with how many people use the airport rather than the possible creation of a JPA, Finigan said. He said he hopes enough people will eventually use the airport to entice other airlines to stop at Jack McNamara on their way north.

The JPA would propose the airport's annual budget, but final approval would go to any agency funding the airport, which, right now, is Del Norte County.

"But it's a regional issue," Finigan stressed. "It's by working together that we find, ¬ĎMaybe what I do will affect you.'"

Finigan said the county will continue to pay for the current services whether there is a JPA or not and, if there is, if any new member decides to put in its own money or not.

Several Brookings councilors questioned whether the three Del Norte supervisors on the proposed JPA would become a voting bloc that would outweigh the rest of the board.

Finigan said the only reason three supervisors were on the board was because the county was still the owner and sole financier of the airport.

If the JPA eventually purchased the airport from the county or if other members started contributing more money, representation would equalize on the board, he said.

The workshop was an informational one and no decision was made. One large question that remains unanswered is whether an Oregon government can enter into a special district, such as the JPA, with a California government.

Finigan said he hoped to get a legal answer to that question in the coming weeks.

There is no deadline for Brookings or any other entity to accept a role with the JPA.

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