Positive Signs for SCLA
VICTORVILLE, CA - While massive debt remains a concern, things are looking up for one of the Victor Valley's most promising job and economic engines: Southern California Logistics Airport.
The former Air Force base is now current on debt payments, expects to turn a slight profit this year and has recently welcomed some new businesses.
“Certainly a lot of things are improving out at the airport,” said Keith Metzler, who serves as Victorville’s assistant city manager and director of SCLA.
The city expects to close out this fiscal year June 30 with airport operations “slightly above break even,” Metzler said. It will mark the third year the airport authority has been in the black, according to Metzler, after previously operating at a significant deficit since the authority was formed in 1997.
Any net revenues have to be reinvested back into the airport, Metzler said. Recently, SCLA used funds to buy a Striker 3000 firefighting truck and a $350,000 sweeper to keep the runways clean.
After years of layoffs, demotions and long-term vacancies, Victorville is also shopping for a new manager to take charge of daily airport operations.
Currently, SCLA’s daily operations are overseen by an asset manager. That person is retiring, Metzler said, prompting the city to take a closer look at how the staff is structured.
For years SCLA had a director whose sole focus was the airport. That person reported directly to the city manager.
When Peter Soderquist stepped down as airport director in December 2009, that duty was added to Metzler’s title, since he’d been heavily involved in transactions there as Victorville’s economic development director.
It was part of a larger downsizing and reorganization that also made Victorville much less top-heavy, cutting the city’s department heads from a 2009 high of 15 plus the city manager down to its current three department heads plus the county’s sheriff’s department chief, county fire captain, city manager and assistant city manager.
Metzler will still serve as SCLA’s director, but said the redefined manager position will allow for greater local oversight while maintaining focused accountability.
He said it’s too early to comment on what the applicant pool looks like, with the job posting open through July 12.
Though rating agencies had predicted the airport authority would fall short on its debt payments for years to come after a default in December, the agency was able to make its full payment June 1 without having to dip into its trustee reserve.
However, Metzler said the agency will very likely come up short again for a $10 million payment that’s due Dec. 1, with the authority only bringing in revenue equal to 75 percent of its debt obligations.
“We won’t know for sure until we get closer to that time,” Metzler said, with the funding source heavily dependent on property tax revenues and how the state will handle the dissolution of its redevelopment agencies.
Metzler said there are more “exciting announcements” in the works for the airport, but couldn’t share details until those deals are finalized.