In a swift Oakdale City Council meeting on Monday, May 2, that saw only three of the council members on the dais, Michael Renfrow, who oversees the Oakdale Airport, informed the city council that the status of the facility is improving and it has been granted support for its activities by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Two years ago the city was notified by the FAA that a complaint had been filed regarding the airport violating certain provisions of its grants; specifically economic nondiscrimination, operations and maintenance, and fee and rental structure. A portion of the informal complaint surrounded the city allowing Sierra West Airlines the use of airport facilities for non-aeronautical purposes such as storage and business operations that did not relate to the airport.
Renfrow stated over the next 24 months, Oakdale representatives worked diligently with the FAA to investigate the allegations as well as correct any violations. Some of the matters included Sierra West storage issues, obtaining an appraisal of hangar leases, and pavement maintenance to the runway and tarmac.
This April the city received a letter from the FAA stating that, “Where compliance problems existed, the City has taken appropriate action to resolve the shortcoming identified by the FAA.” It went on to state that the city was currently in compliance.
Notable from the FAA’s April 14, 2016 letter is its reversal on its opinion of Sierra West’s aeronautical activity.
In a July 2015 letter from FAA Compliance Specialist Robert Lee is the finding that “…Sierra West Airlines at the Oakdale Airport functions mainly as a non-aeronautical activity” and disapproving the way Sierra West was utilizing the hangars at the facility.
Lee writes, “We conclude Sierra West Airlines conducts a business at the airport that is essentially non-aeronautical,” pointing out that Sierra West’s “actual aviation activities” occured in El Paso, Texas. “The (Oakdale) business operates as a dispatcher or reservation service that tracks aircraft and pilot availability to schedule operations outside of the airport.”
The latest FAA letter, also from Lee, states, “Based on our assessment, we have concluded that Sierra West is actually a commercial aeronautical business that utilized three airport hangars (L1, L2, and L3), the latter being used to store non-aviation supplies on a short-term basis.”
The letter goes on to state that the rates charged to Sierra West were in compliance and there were no violations of the FAA grant terms.
The city, however, has recently disclosed that they are in the process to locate a new tenant for Hangar L3 which had been used for storage by Sierra West.
In Renfrow’s presentation, he advised the council that the airport occupancy rate was at 100 percent, bringing in over $129,000 in rent revenue to the city last year. There was also a 49 percent rise in fuel sales at the airport bringing in additional revenue for the facility.
Current projects include a new grant-financed fencing project to replace a wire perimeter fence with a six-foot chain link fence with barbed wire along with an automatic gate.
Runway and tarmac upgrades include removing and replacing over 58,500 square feet of pavement, overlaying another 297,000 square feet, and slurry seal of 292,000 square feet. After the upgrades, the entire airport with be restriped.
“We’re continuing a process to improve,” City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said during the update. “The FAA letter was a powerful statement.”
Whitemyer said the city is in “good standing” with the FAA.
“The issues brought forward were rectified or found to be unfounded,” Whitemyer added. “We have a game plan in play. The future is bright for the Oakdale Airport.”