Residents Evicted From Daggett Airport

DAGGETT—San Bernardino County and its division of airports are evicting residents from 17 housing units located on the grounds of Barstow-Daggett Airport.
Those being ousted from their properties are not in arrears on their rent payments. Rather, the county is getting out of the landlord-residential tenant relationship due to the costs of maintaining the units as rentals and to clear the way for transformation, renovation and modernization of the premises to furnish quarters for aviation related uses and expand the military component of the facility.
The units were originally constructed in the 1940s by McDonnell-Douglas to house aircraft mechanics and technicians working there as defense contractors working at the base, including ones doing alteration work on World War II-era warplanes. The homes were later used to house some military personnel stationed at the base. In the 1950s, the county acquired the residential properties and by the 1960s was renting out some of the residential units. The county maintains a water system and sewage treatment system at the airport. The cost of supplying residents and other entities there with potable water runs to $225,000 per year, according to the county and the sewage plant costs roughly $55,000 per year to run and maintain.
The eviction of the residential tenants, however, will not obviate the need for the water and sewer systems, as flight and military related operations will continue to be carried out at the base. According to the county, administering the airport’s home rental program at the base entails up to $120,000 worth of staff time and the county must maintain insurance that entails premiums of approximately $2,000 per month. These costs are not offset by the $451 rent each residential household pays per unit monthly, which provides the county with a total of $92,000 per year.
According to the county, rent on the units would have to be increased to $2,400 per month to defray what it asserts is the $489,600 cost of remaining as landlord to the residents and maintaining the units themselves, along with the water and sewer systems.
Some of the residents and others have questioned whether the county’s assertion as to the actual costs of administration and maintenance of the water and sewer services are accurate and disputed the county will actually achieve savings by effectuating the evictions.
There are a handful of aviation-related businesses at the airport, including Daggett Aviation, which has contracts with the U.S. Army to provide services at the airport. The water and sewer systems will need to remain in place for use by the military, businesses and the county’s own office on the airport grounds. The county has no intention of closing down the airport, and is indeed looking to expand operations there. The board of supervisors has appropriated $2,444,000 for upgrading the electrical system on the airport runway and has already concluded the extension of one of the airport’s taxiways and put in new lighting for another taxiway.
Nevertheless, county officials insist they recently crunched numbers to determine that maintaining the housing program on the airport will cost more than four times what the rents generate. The county maintains it has no obligation to provide those evicted with alternative housing and has offered each household $500 toward moving expenses while insisting that they vacate the premises by May 1.

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