Napa County looks at the airport renovation effort and the unwarranted allegations of secrecy associated with it differently than the 2021-2022 grand jury appointed as a citizen watchdog to local governments.
The oversight board last week approved a rebuttal to the June 21 stinging grand jury report. The vote was 3 to 2 for her, opposed by her supervisors Belia Ramos and Brad Wagenknecht.
On August 23, a majority of supervisors said the county misused or abused closed sessions, lacked a shared vision, or He said he hadn’t failed to promote transparency.
While agreeing with the county’s counterarguments, supervisor Alfredo Pedrosa acknowledged that the airport renovation work would be difficult. , he said.
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“Then we went to the market and found out that we were dealing with very sophisticated people who wanted to do business at airports,” Pedrosa said. I don’t think I was prepared for the intensity.”
Ramos, by contrast, agreed with many of the grand jury’s criticisms, including those regarding closed-door sessions.
“My comments should not be taken as a reflection of what is bad for the staff,” Ramos said.
And Wagenknecht said he voted “No” to the county’s answer. He wanted a reply citing findings that the airport could support his having two fixed-based operators.
County officials have expressed hope that the county will have players in place by the end of the year and that renovation work will proceed.
The Napa County Airport was built during World War II and is located near the swamps in the southern part of the county. The county is in the midst of a multi-year effort to upgrade “from skyport to wine country,” with a terminal that a grand jury said looks like it came straight out of a 1960s movie set.
County-owned airports always have one fixed-based operator who operates airport services such as refueling, hangar space, and maintenance. The oversight board wants to add another. Each operator will build and operate its own terminal and other facilities, and the current terminal will be demolished.
This means the county will have to negotiate with the current fixed base operator to find a second operator. In summer 2019, the oversight board held a vote seeking bids for her second operator.
County officials initially said a board of oversight would need to secure a contract for the 2020 airport renovation.
Most of the supervisory discussions on this topic since 2019 have been out of the public eye in closed sessions. State law allows private sessions to discuss prices and payment terms in real estate negotiations.
The grand jury report said, “Allegations from multiple interviewees with direct knowledge that the non-disclosure board has been misused/abused are credible.”
According to the grand jury report, interviewees said that closed-door sessions sometimes lead to unacceptable discussions about prices and payments. One interviewee said the county interpreted the closed-door session rule “aggressively.”
Not so, the county said in a board-approved response.
“The county’s deputy administrator disagrees with this finding. No evidence has been provided to support this claim,” the response said.
Ramos disagreed with his colleagues. Given her observations and experiences in multiple closed-door sessions and her understanding of state legislative law, she said she would agree with the grand jury.
A grand jury filed another closed-door session complaint. Confidential information was leaked by non-county staff from the sessions to companies negotiating airport renovations, at times undermining staff and other county supervisors, it said.
“Interviewees said bidders always seemed to know what they shouldn’t do and were one step ahead of county staff involved in discussions.” The person admitted to receiving information he should not have known, and as a result questioned the integrity of the process.”
The official response, approved by the oversight board, disagreed with caution.
“While the County has no evidence to support this claim, there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to support the appearance and concern of such potential improprieties.” We will provide training to those who are participating.”
Ramos agreed with the grand jury.
There are also allegations that the grand jury did not give enough thought to the required timeframe and required elements, which would only result in longer restoration efforts, leading to unrealistic expectations.
Ramos said the bid award process was drawn out because the airport wanted all fixed-base operator bids to be only one, rather than following the two-operator model preferred by the county. They wanted to be “the only game in town.”
“Things get complicated when you have people who don’t want to be who they want to be. added that it was interfering.
Public Works Director Steven Lederer said some potential bidders knew what the county wanted and didn’t want it to be that way, but still submitted bids.The process is final. thoroughly washed them away.
He praised the county staff for sticking to what the oversight board wanted to do apart from “all the other whirlwinds.”
“There are many people involved in this process, many of whom have been pushed and pulled in different directions,” Lederer said.
Wagenknecht said he was shocked at how limited the world of fixed-base operators was and how advanced inside baseball was.
“I was always asked for background information. It hadn’t gotten to us yet, but people all over the world knew about it,” he said. do not know”
He assumes that the world of fixed base operators is so small that officials from various companies talk together, conduct reconnaissance, and know what other companies are doing.
“You have to be more careful than ever when doing this kind of thing,” Wagenknecht said. “Because what is said to someone comes back to everyone. I think it was a process that involved a lot of concern for all parts of us.
The grand jury hopes the county can successfully complete the airport renovation work.
“Anyway, the county needs to do some serious self-reflection on this process and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the report said. I have. So does Napa and its inhabitants. “
Lederer gave an update on what was happening at the oversight board meeting. The county is working with current fixed-base operator Atlantic Aviation and is in talks with a potential her second fixed-base operator, Leading Edge Jet Center LLC.
Lederer said he hopes to reach an agreement with the supervisory board within 60 days. From 30 years he costs 35 years commitment and millions of dollars.
Leading Edge is the fixed base operator of Seattle’s King County International Airport – Boeing Field, Central Oregon’s Bend Municipal Airport and Redmond, Oregon’s Roberts Field Airport.
“We have lots of good news and progress to share.
Lederer also said airport manager Greg Baer resigned months ago. Mark Wisso, the former Kern County airport manager, will take the position.
Witsoe led Kern County airport operations from 2018 until his retirement in February of this year. He was named Airport Manager of the Year in 2021 by the Southwest Chapter of the American Airport Managers Association.
Bear became Contra Costa County’s airport director in May.
Additionally, Napa County Airport is talking to potential tenants working on experimental electric and vertical takeoff aircraft. Lederer said the company is in talks with potential tenants to introduce charter plane services to the county.
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You can contact Barry Eberling at 707-256-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.