The San Diego County Board of Supervisors adopted on Wednesday a number of amendments to the policy regulating the use of county-run airports, placing more leasing authority in the hands of the director of airports.
While the amendments touched on several areas within the Schedule of Rates and Charges and Use Control Policy, the change granting the director of airports the authority to award shorter-term, lower-value leases and licenses was the most discussed.
Other changes to the policy, which was first adopted in 1975, were characterized by Chairwoman Dianne Jacob as "clean-up" of a policy that had hardly changed since its drafting.
Such relatively uncontested changes included new language in the document that removed responsibilities delegated to a director of transportation and a director of real property, two positions that existed in the 1970s but no longer do today.
The county's system of airports is now a division within the county Department of Public Works, with management handled by DWP's director and the director of airports, Peter Drinkwater.
Other adjustments were made to include a definition of terms in line with airport operations, help staff better distinguish between leases, licenses and permits, and make policies consistent for each airport's cost of living increases for certain fees.
Speaking before the board, Robert Germann, a representative from the group Citizens Against Gillespie's Existence, said providing Drinkwater with the authority to grant certain leases without the Board of Supervisors' approval would give him too much power.
"This new ordinance limits information to the public," Germann said. "We just uncovered a service issue regarding the flight schools, who lease from the airport. We got it to the board's attention; the board addressed that issue with a public ordinance."
He said the allowance of leases administratively would reduce transparency, both in the types of leases being granted and their values -- information he said is useful to other leaseholders in determining whether they’ve received a fair deal.
County staff said the amendment would simply streamline county procedures, as the Department of General Services has the same authority, which is line with state law. With the change, Drinkwater will be able to approve leases up to 10 years in length, with monthly rents up to $10,000, without approval from the Board of Supervisors.
Jacob said legitimate questions had been raised by the public, and in turn verified with staff the procedure for notifying the public of proposed leases of that size.
County staff said such leases are required to be posted through print media prior to approval, and that there had been no issues of backroom deals with the policy's use in the General Services Department.
"This is something new, and I understand the issues that have been raised," Jacob said.
The goal of outlining consistent practices across departments was the key to her approval of the changes, she said.
"If there are some issues with how this plays out, then that needs to be addressed by the chief administrative officer," she said.
Supervisors Bill Horn and Dave Roberts joined Jacob in voting in favor of the amendments. Supervisors Ron Roberts and Greg Cox were not present.
Airports within the county's jurisdiction include Agua Caliente, Borrego Valley, Fallbrook Airpark, Gillespie Field, Jacumba, McClellan-Palomar, Ocotillo and Ramona.