Taft to funds fraction of $126,000 study

The city is going to pay a small portion of a study that could play a huge part in the future of the Taft Airport.

Even though Kern County owns the airport, city officials say the city could be the big beneficiary if the study opens the way to obtain federal funding to upgrade and realign the existing runways or even relocate the airport.

The Taft City Council voted 4-1 to spend $6,326 in matching funds to go along with $120,190 from a Federal Aviation Administration grant to fund a study to consider the feasibility of realignment of the runways at the airport. If redesigning the current facility isn’t a viable option, then the city could get a new airport at a different site.

City Manager Bob Gorson said city staff has identified two potential sites – one east of town and one on the western edge of the city limits.
The grant is an important step in obtaining the necessary funding to give the city a viable airport again.

Only one runway at the airport is now usable, and it is on such a steep grade that the airport isn’t even eligible for funding for repairs.
City Councilman Craig Noble met with Supervisor Ray Watson and other county officials to discuss the proposal.

He said the county, facing a severe budget crisis of its own, isn’t going to fund the study and the grant money will go away if it is not used.
He thinks the city is serving itself by stepping in with the six percent grant.

“I think it is in our best interest to provide the money here,” he said.
Councilman Randy Miller agreed.

“This is a really cheap cost for a really excellent study,” Miller said.
To sweeten the deal for the city, buying into the study will allow the city a seat at the table when the study is being compiled and discussed.
It will be a crucial part of the city’s general plan update, Planner Lawrence Tomasello said.

The only opposition came from Councilman Cliff Thompson.
He said the county should pay for the study.

“For us to pay for something the county should be doing is a misuse of city funds,” Thompson said. “If it was the City of Taft airport, a municipal airport, I would have no problem paying for it. But it’s their airport.”