By ABBY SOUZA
Tuolumne County Airports Director Jim Thomas will seek proposals for hangar construction at Pine Mountain Lake Airport.
Originally, Thomas told the county Airports Committee he thought construction should wait until a master plan is created for the airport. Grant money was recently acquired to write a plan for the future of Pine Mountain Lake Airport, but the writing won't begin until next year, he said.
But Dick Collier, committee chairman, said that's too long for the 35 pilots on the hangar waiting list at the South County airport.
"It doesn't do much to address what is obviously a large need right now," Collier said.
There are five county-owned hangars at Pine Mountain Lake Airport and several privately owned hangars. There are 55 county-owned hangars at Columbia, which also has several privately owned hangars on airport property. Columbia Airport's hangar waiting list is 138 pilots long.
And hangar turnover is virtually nonexistent, Thomas said.
When committee members met yesterday, they directed Thomas to start looking at how the hangar shortage can be resolved.
It won't be a smooth ride, though.
Thomas said it will be hard for the county to get a low-interest loan through the Caltrans Division of Aeronautics to build hangars without a master plan.
County Supervisor Dick Pland, a committee member, said he and fellow Supervisor Mark Thornton had always favored the idea of letting private enterprises build hangars because they run into less red tape.
When a private company or person wants to build hangars, it or they sign a lease with the county to use the land, usually for 20 or 35 years. The costs of construction, bringing utilities to the hangar and renting the space are all the developer's responsibility.
Thornton, also on the committee, said if people can and want to build hangars at Pine Mountain Lake Airport, the master plan process shouldn't delay them.
"I think we should do it parallel, though," Thornton said of writing the master plan and accepting offers for hangar construction projects. "My desire is to get the hangars up."