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Oceano airport OK, SLO in trouble 

Don’t worry: The Oceano Airport isn’t going anywhere. As for the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, it might be OK to start biting your fingernails.

Responding to a proposal by Los Osos developer Jeff Edwards to redevelop the 59-acre Oceano Airport into a new town center, SLO County supervisors fervently assured that there are no plans to do so.

“It is not for sale,” Supervisor Katcho Achadjian said to a group of pilots and other airport representatives who came to protest the proposal at the March 2 Board of Supervisors meeting.

After the crowd left, confident the airport wouldn’t be sold, Edwards argued to the supervisors that the airport, which is said to generate about $1 million for Oceano, could be more profitable as a new town center.

“Let’s explore the possibilities,” he urged.

He has also scheduled six meetings over the next six months to promote his proposal, the first of which is slated for March 17.

In other air news, the SLO airport isn’t up for sale, but it is hemorrhaging money. According to the latest financial stats, airport managers need $500,000 to cover the bill they paid in 2003 for a new terminal and related projects. They had depended on revenue from ridership and the Federal Aviation Administration to cover the original costs for designing a new terminal, but that money didn’t come through.

“We’re looking at it as all work that’s been done and we need to pay for,” Airport Manager Richard Howell told New Times.

A 2006 T-Hangar project, paid for by a Caltrans loan, is also driving up the debt. The rental revenues came in at $250,000 less than the annual loan repayment amount, according to a county report.

Howell told supervisors that the airport needs a $500,000 financial boost. For the 2010-11 fiscal year, the airport is projecting up to a $250,000 deficit.

Despite steadily declining passenger numbers over the past three years, Howell pledged that new marketing campaigns and incentive packages for airlines are expected to bring in 38,000 additional passengers and $400,000 over the next fiscal year.

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