Ontario moves to strengthen airport bid with new joint powers authority

L.A./Ontario International Airport

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Travelers pass through L.A./ Ontario International Airport in 2008. The city of Ontario wants to regain control of the airport, which has seen decline in business for several years.

Ontario is taking another step in its effort to take control of the city’s airport, joining with San Bernardino County to form a joint powers authority that would operate the airport should Ontario gain control.

Ontario Airport is currently run by Los Angeles World Airports, which also runs LAX and the Van Nuys airport. But Ontario says it could do a better job, accusing the L.A. agency of mismanagement and citing a large decrease in business at the airport over the past several years.

"There is no option other than taking local control," said Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner. "We can't afford to see the airport continue to decline in business, so therefore, if for some reason there's no ... resolution, than certainly, we'll pursue other strategies."

Ontario is joining with San Bernardino County to create the Ontario International Airport Authority – a five member independent commission that could ultimately manage and run Ontario airport.

Wapner said city officials looked at other airport authorities around the country and talked to airlines in its search for a good model. "They felt the best type would be one that combined both public as well as private individuals on the authority," he said.

The airport authority would be made up of two members from the Ontario city council, a San Bernardino county supervisor, and two members from the general public. The Ontario City council is expected to approve the joint powers authority at its meeting next week.

Wapner expressed the desire to eventually add representatives from Orange County, Riverside County, and L.A. County to the authority, because "we feel it important that this airport belong to the region."

Los Angeles World Airports has opposed transferring control over Ontario Airport, and spokeswoman Maria Tesoro reiterated that position today. At the same time, LAWA will not stand in the way of the formation of the Ontario International Airport Authority, she said, adding that her agency "will address it" once it is formed.

LAWA denies that it has done a poor job running the Ontario airport. It blames the drop in business on the larger economy.

Meanwhile, the city of Los Angeles has hired an outside consultant to study Ontario’s proposal to gain control. That report could come before the L.A. City Council by next month.

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