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July 23, 2004

Jackass airport loses momentum


Despite resigned protests from Amargosa Valley residents over what they saw as a golden opportunity for economic development, the Nye County Board of Commissioners unanimously vetoed their idea of taking over the lease for the old Jackass Aeropark near Lathrop Wells.

The idea surfaced several weeks ago, but was believed dead when the commissioners initially panned the proposal.

But the Jackass brayed, refusing to die a quite death. The issue resurfaced three weeks later when the town board of Amargosa Valley said it wanted to use its share of federal funding for urban revitalization to make the down payment on the property.

Nye County would have had to take responsibility for paying the Bureau of Land Management $60,000 to $64,000 per year to lease the 860 acres on which the out-of-repair runway and office-residential trailers are located. Repair costs and master plan development costs would have added an additional $45,000 to the county's burden.

The Federal Aviation Administration deactivated the ramshackle airport May 18, allowing it to be reclaimed by the elements.

Because of past federal funding of other airports in the county, close to the Jackass Aeropark, the FAA would not permit federal funding of that airport as well, said Mary Ellen Giampaoli, an independent consultant on the project.

"The FAA has made it abundantly clear that they will not support this project," said Joni Eastley, Nye County's representative on the board of commissioners. Eastley had supported the project up until this week, when she discovered the true costs the airport would place on the county and its unlikelihood of getting FAA approval.

"It's a huge expenditure with very little probability of success," Giampaoli told the commissioners, basing her judgment on the 29 miles separating the airport from the one in Beatty. To receive funding, the FAA requires that airports not be within 30 minutes driving time of one another.

All operational costs would have had to be borne by the county as well, she said.

Eastley made the motion not to pursue acquisition of the airport, saying no one on the board was more idealistic than she, but that one had to be realistic.

The BLM could possibly sell the property as disposable land, Giampaoli said. Commissioner Patricia Cox said the county could acquire other BLM disposal lands for other, more viable projects in Nye County.

"Many people think that 'if you build it they will come,'" Giampaoli said. Describing the return of the Jackass Aeropark as "a pipe dream," she said the county could better spend its resources "where we have real opportunities."

Dismay was the mood of Amargosa Valley residents after the hearing. "We have no plan for economic development in this valley," said one dejected resident.

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