A MORE FRIENDLY SKY? | Airport manager hopes development plan and improved communication will settle turbulent relations with Camarillo officials – VC Reporter
ON THE PICTURE : Camarillo Airport towards Camarillo. Photo submitted
by Alex Wilson
Keith Freitas began his new job as Ventura County airports manager in November by apologizing for a communications blackout that had many fearing that giant Amazon cargo jets could soon be blazing a route to land at Camarillo airport.
A process was launched in early 2021 by former airport manager Kip Turner to update the airport’s 2011 master plan and consider the possibility of allowing commercial air service or cargo planes at the county-owned airport.
This helped spread unfounded rumors that Amazon wanted to use Camarillo Airport to support the massive fulfillment center the company was building a few miles away in Oxnard. Despite denials from Amazon officials and Turner about the possibility, the rumors persisted.
Turner also caused controversy by suggesting that a 1976 joint powers agreement between Camarillo city officials and the county government limiting the size of planes allowed to use the airport should be updated to comply with current Federal Aviation Administration regulations and remain eligible for federal grants. This position drew a harsh response from Camarillo town leaders who insisted the agreement was still valid and enforceable.
City officials funded a survey showing that most residents were opposed to any expansion of airport uses.
Controversies surrounding the airport led to Turner’s resignation, and Freitas was hired in part because he had a strong track record of public involvement at the airports he had previously managed in Northern California, county government officials said.
Freitas returned to city council at their July 13 meeting to tell them he is committed to reaching the same destination they desire, without any major changes to the airport’s current operation as an airport. general aviation.
“I started by apologizing for the way the airport department interacted with the community and council members. We had started a master plan, we stopped the master plan. There were a lot of concerns and questions about noise, rumors about Amazon and 737s and things like that,” Freitas told the board.
Freitas said that instead of revising the master plan, which would have a 20-year horizon, the department instead received FAA approval to conduct a less extensive update to the airport’s development plan. (ALP) with a shorter period of about seven years. The ALP will be narrower in scope than a master plan update and will focus on items such as runway maintenance rather than the possibility of significant changes in airport uses.
“We don’t look at things like air service, air cargo, touching runway length, any of those things,” Freitas said during the meeting.
The ALP process is expected to begin in September and last 12-15 months, and Freitas promised there will be plenty of opportunities for public engagement. He said having a current ALP in place is an FAA requirement to receive grants for airport improvements, which are usually funded by the federal government.
Following Freitas’ presentation, Board Member Tony Trembley expressed satisfaction with the new approach taken by the airport department under Freitas’ leadership.
“You’ve provided a breath of fresh air, so I really want to congratulate you on this process,” Trembley said.
Following the meeting, Freitas told the Ventura County Reporter that another thing the department plans to address is a noise study for which officials are seeking nearly $800,000 in federal grants.
“[The study would be] where we are looking at noise impacts now and in the future and implementing whatever can help us mitigate noise for the community,” he said, adding that the next big investment project that what they hope to accomplish is a resurfacing of the runway which could take place around 2025 if federal grants for the project are approved.
Freitas also pledged to do a better job on communications than has been done by the airport department in the past. Airport officials are hiring a new spokesperson to improve transparency, he said. “The airport’s failure in the past was the lack of communications and letting people know what was going on. We’re not going to let that happen again.”
Camarillo Mayor Shawn Mulchay told the Ventura County Reporter after the meeting that he was happy with the new route the airport service had laid out.
“They listened to our concerns and objections to the course of the airport master plan they were pursuing. And with the change in leadership at the Airports Department with Keith Freitas now at the helm, I think our relationship has definitely healed,” the mayor said. “They intend to fully comply with the 1976 Joint Jurisdiction Agreement between the City of Camarillo and the County. It’s music to our ears.