A survey presented at the City Council meeting that night officially concluded that Runway 30 — which was listed at 4,004 feet in 2007 — now measures 3,999 feet, 10 inches. The change resulted from a botched resealing and lining job on the tarmac in 2007 by California Pavement Maintenance Co. Inc., based in Sacramento, according to Rod Buchanan, director of parks and community services, which oversees airport operations.
The city of Tracy is undertaking a multitude of projects at the airport, 5749 S. Tracy Blvd., to upgrade and improve the two runways.
Aviators and business owners at the airport told council members they were worried that the city would not rectify the runway length. They cited language in construction documents filed with the Federal Aviation Administration using the abbreviated figure as the established dimension, which could imply it would remain the length of the runway moving forward.
Richard Ortenheim, director of SkyView Aviation, which operates out of the airport, addressed the council on behalf of Steve Stuhmer, owner of Turlock Air Center.
Stuhmer runs the fuel concessions at the Tracy airport.
According to Ortenheim, Stuhmer’s business plan hinges on a runway length of at least 4,001 feet, because of insurance purposes.
Insurance for many pilots flying the style of planes that Turlock Air services require a runway length of at least 4,000 feet. Without such a standard, Ortenheim said that Stuhmer would lose the fuel sales from those potential customers, and possibly his business, if they can’t access a smaller runway.
“This means that his lease is useless that he signed with the city earlier this year,” Ortenheim told council members. “You also have to keep that in consideration.”
John Favors, president of Tracy Air Association, reiterated Ortenheim’s points about protecting fuel sales for Turlock Air Center. Favors said that the reduction in fuel sales for Stuhmer’s business would hurt both the airport and the city, as pilots would seek to fill up elsewhere.
“It’s going to have a systemic effect on reducing the total income that comes into the airport,” he said. “Keep in mind that the total number of gallons that Steve sells, that’s more tax revenue coming into the city.”
According to Buchanan, the survey results showed that the runway could be relined and expanded on the existing asphalt surface to 4,000 feet, 2 inches. He said that city staff has used the 3,999-foot, 10-inch figure because that’s how the lines are drawn.
The number, he said, is simply being used to maintain accuracy and consistency on forms submitted to the FAA.
The city is developing a business model and construction plan for the airport with FAA assistance, because the projects are being funded with federal dollars.
“We could have used different language, I suppose,” Buchanan said. “But what we are trying to do is basically say that we are starting from this base position and working forward.”
Buchanan said the inches more or less than 4,000 feet would determine the city’s land-use options under state law.
A 4,000- to 6,000-foot runway would classify the Tracy airport as a medium-sized airport, whereas a runway shorter than 4,000 feet would make it a small airport.
The San Joaquin Council of Governments has designated Tracy Municipal Airport as a “hybrid,” because its measured length is at the cusp of the brackets — a move that aligned with the city’s 1998 airport master plan.
According to Buchanan, a medium-sized designation would subject the city’s land-use options to the more restrictive guidelines that a medium-sized labeling requires.
City staff members are involved in an approval process with the FAA to move forward on the proposals outlined at the council meeting.
The FAA, Buchanan said, will probably make a recommendation to either change the 1998 airport master plan — which would be a two-year process — or to requisition a year-long feasibility study examining the cost impact of the proposals.
The cost of the projects will be determined and funded by the FAA, which should be “very close to making a decision (on whether to fund the proposed projects),” Buchanan said.
“I would say that probably within two months, we’ll know what our planning would look like for the next two years,” he said.
Mayor Brent Ives strongly urged Buchanan to push the FAA to recognize the Tracy airport runway as at least 4,000 feet long.
Dan G. Sodergren, city attorney, said the issue would be addressed when his office and the FAA conclude talks about possibly imposing ramifications on California Pavement Maintenance, the contractor that shortened the runway by incorrectly lining the strip in 2007.