Ontario Now Eyeing November 1 As Date For Official Airport Takeover

The full transfer of Ontario International Airport to the City of Ontario will be delayed until this fall. Very likely, the changeover from the current arrangement by which Los Angeles controls the airport will come on November 1.
Ontario Airport had fewer than 200,000 passengers pass through its gates in 1967, at which time it entered into a joint operating agreement with Los Angeles. Under Los Angeles’ stewardship, ridership at the airport grew exponentially, as the larger city was able to use its control over gate positions at Los Angeles International Airport to induce more and more airlines to fly into and out of Ontario.
All told, Los Angeles instituted some $550 million worth of improvements to the airport, including paving its gravel parking lot, laying down a second and entirely new east-to-west runway over its obsolete northeast-to-southwest landing strip, and modernizing its existing east-to-west runway, including the widening of taxiways and the addition of storm drains. Ontario Airport’s landing and take-off paths were converted into the longest such civilian facilities in Southern California, and Los Angeles erected a state-of-the-art control tower, and constructed two ultra-modern terminals at a cost of $270 million, augmented with a world class concourse.
In 1985, after all criteria in the joint operating agreement were met, Ontario deeded the airport to Los Angeles for no consideration. The airport continued to prosper under the guidance of Los Angeles World Airports, the airport-managing corporate arm of Los Angeles, which oversees operations at Los Angeles International, Ontario and Van Nuys airports.
In 2007, 7.2 million passengers flew into and out of Ontario. The downturn of the economy that ensued, however, prompted a drop off in the number of passengers and some airlines ceased operating there.
There followed an effort by the City of Ontario, led by councilman Alan Wapner, to push Los Angeles officials into relinquishing management and ownership of the aerodrome. The once-cordial relationship between Ontario and the megalopolis to the west grew acrimonious as Ontario charged Los Angeles with purposefully mismanaging the airport to increase ridership at Los Angeles International Airport. Ultimately, in June 2013, Ontario filed suit against Los Angeles, seeking the return of the airport.
In 2015, in a deal tentatively arrived at in August and ratified in December, Ontario agreed to pay Los Angeles $150 million for the airport, provide another $60 million to purchase assets technically belonging to Los Angeles World Airports that are in place at Ontario Airport and which are crucial or indispensable to its operations and assume bonded indebtedness of roughly $50 million related to the airport. Los Angeles agreed to transfer ownership and operation to Ontario as of July 1, 2016.
Ontario missed that target date for the airport takeover.
In January 2016, Congressman Ken Calvert introduced Bill 4369, intended to make future passenger fees at Ontario Airport available to partially defray the cost of building its two terminals, a major part of the investment Los Angeles made at the airport. In June, Bill 4369 was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives, and another bill, one sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein, subsequently passed muster with the Senate, with the combined package being signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 15. That legislation cleared the way for up to $70 million in passenger facility charges being collected at the airport to be used by Ontario to make good on its payments to Los Angeles.
In August 2012, anticipating that Los Angeles would eventually be prevailed upon to transition the airport back to local control, the Ontario City Council voted to enter into a joint powers arrangement with the County of San Bernardino to create an entity that would ultimately assume operational and administrative authority over the airport. Simultaneously, Ontario moved to assure that the city would dominate that board. It designated Ontario city councilmen Alan Wapner and Jim Bowman to serve as the city’s representatives on the airport joint powers authority board, and the county, in acceding to the cooperative effort, appointed then Fourth District supervisor Gary Ovitt, a former mayor of Ontario in whose Fourth Supervisorial District the airport is located, as one of the county representatives on the JPA board. County chief executive officer Greg Devereaux, who had previously been Ontario’s city manager, was also named to the board. The fifth member was Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge. Curt Hagman, who replaced Ovitt as Fourth District supervisor in 2014, replaced Ovitt on the Ontario International Airport Authority board.
The board subsequently hired Kelly J. Fredericks, the executive director of T. F. Green Airport near Providence, Rhode Island, to serve as the executive director of Ontario Airport.
Frederics and the board adjusted to having missed the July 1 date of achieving Ontario International Airport’s certificate of operation, and has now given up on completing the transfer of operational authority from Los Angeles World Airports to the authority by no later than October 1.
Key to making the ownership and management switch is ensuring the financing to make the payments to Los Angeles are in place. Accordingly, in less than two weeks, on August 29 and August 30, analysts with Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings are scheduled to do a thorough examination of the airport’s books and the city’s financial standing to ascertain that the debt the city will take on to make the $260 million in payments to Los Angeles can be serviced. It is anticipated both firms will find the city and the airport authority is indeed in a position to assume the debt, since the city is already preparing a notification to Los Angeles World Airports that is to go out on September 1 saying all is viable for the transition of ownership to be initiated.
Tentatively, the official transfer is set up to take place November 1.

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