Airport committee makes changes

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By ABBY SOUZA

People who use the Columbia or Pine Mountain Lake airports for anything other than flying may be out of luck.

Yesterday the Tuolumne County Airports Committee voted not to allow anyone but pilots, passengers, maintenance and service personnel and airport officials at the airports without permission.

The language will be added to a draft of the airports' reserved space permits, which must be signed by anybody renting tie-downs, hangars, or anything else from the county. The permits have been under revision for about a year.

People can often be found walking, jogging, riding bikes, playing with dogs or even riding horses at the airports.

Until yesterday, the permit read as though no one not even pilots would be allowed to walk around the airport without permission.

But people on the runways are safety problems for pilots and the county, who could be held liable if an accident were to occur.

One of the first duties of new airports Director Jim Thomas will be to add the new restrictions to the draft permit and run it by the county's attorneys.

Thomas recently took over from interim Director Daniel Richardson, who ran both county airports after Director Tim Deike left in the spring.

At yesterday's meeting, the committee doled out work to be done.

"I think I probably got the bulk of it," Thomas, said. "And that's fine. It's my job."

After the committee gave Thomas the task of revising the permit, it passed the draft unanimously.

"I think the airports committee, the fire marshal and everyone involved in writing the permit did a very good job," Thomas said.

He said he thinks the permit seems fair, though there will always be people who resist change.

"I don't see any long-term problems," he said.

Contact Abby Souza at asouza @uniondemocrat.com .

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