New TSA rules mean Oroville’s airport could get a lot busier

OROVILLE – New federal rules requiring all airplanes leaving the United States clear U.S. Customs could mean Oroville’s Dorothy Scott International Airport is in for a lot more traffic.

The Oroville City Council learned of the airport’s potential for increased use from Airport Service Manager Steven Johnston at the council’s Tuesday, May 19 meeting.

“We’ve been watching the TSA’s (Transportation Security Administration’s) regulations coming from Homeland Security and felt that most would not effect us because we do not handle commercial passenger services,” said Johnston. “However, May 18th one of their things is to require all outbound planes to clear Customs.”

Johnston said that a Huey Helicopter from Oregon that was bound for Alaska by way of Canada to fight fires under contract to the federal government had to stop and go through Customs. Then when the helicopter was about to head out it was further delayed due to mechanical problems.

“The airport was plum full up and with this new traffic coming in I think we should get some federal dollars for their silly rules,” said Johnston.

Dorothy Scott has a small Customs shack where Customs and Border Protection officers conduct business. The officers have to drive the four miles or so into town and then about three miles to the airport to make their inspections. Once the outbound aircraft leave Oroville they have to land at Kelowna to clear Canadian Customs as well, according to Johnston.

The Airport Services Manager said the additional traffic could result in increased wear and tear on the airport, but also may lead to an increase in fuel sales if pilots know they will have to stop in Oroville anyway before heading further northbound.

Johnston also reported on the Big World of Flight program where volunteers teach school children about aviation. A total of 115 students from grades four to six got to watch take offs and landings, see the inside of planes and learn about general aviation from actual pilots.

In another airport related matter, at Councilman Walt Hart’s request the council gave approval to send a letter to a pilot who has a derelict plane in the city’s open hanger. The plane has not moved in around 15 years and the city wants it gone by June.

“There is a long list of people that want in that space,” said Clerk Kathy Jones.

The city continues to seek funding for the bio-solids project at the Oroville’s Wastewater Treatment facility.

Money that was being counted on to fund the project was used to repair Eastlake Road following the installation of the Eastlake Sewer Project by the county.

“Commissioner (Bud) Hover said because the sewer project went out their and tore up the road the money from the Public Works Trust Fund that we thought was approved for our bio-solids project was used to make the road repairs,” said Rod Noel, Superintendent of Public Works.

“Why the commissioners didn’t contact the city to let us know before spending it on the road I don’t know,” added Noel.

The council approved spending $1500 to renew it’s membership in the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force.

Clay Warnstaff, Oroville Police Chief, thanked the council for their continued support of the drug task force and then brought up a notice from North Valley Hospital District regarding who pays when a subject has been arrested and needs medical treatment. In the past those without insurance were treated as charity cases, but the district says it will bill the city in the future.

“We get the doctor bill if they are under arrest. In the past we un-arrested them and took them to the hospital,” said Chief Warnstaff.

“If this is going to be their policy it could absolutely break a small community if it turns out they have a major medical problem,” said Clerk Jones.

Mayor Chuck Spieth asked who gets billed if Oroville picks up someone on a county warrant.

“We do,” said Warnstaff, pointing out that the same could be said for the county if they pick up someone under an Oroville warrant.

“I think Mick’s the person to take this to,” said Councilman Ed Naillon, referring to the city’s attorney Mick Howe, who also is the attorney for the hospital district.

Chief Warnstaff said officer Ken Waddel, will be graduating from the Police academy this month.

“And my new officer, Officer Annie, has generated some pretty funny reports,” said Warnstaff.

Officer Annie is a manikin that sits in an unused patrol car which the police department has been moving to various parts of the city.

“We did a 100 car survey north of town and only three cars were going fast enough to pull over according to the radar, so I think she working pretty well in slowing down traffic,” he said.

Warnstaff said as people get used to seeing the car, he may shake things up and one of his other officers may take Officer Annie’s place at random times.

In yet another piece of police business, Chief Warnstaff said the city had taken delivery of the new patrol vehicle, a new Ford Crown Victory the city got off the state bid.

“We got a light bar from the U.S. Border Patrol that would have set us back another $1400 to $1500 for nothing,” said Warnstaff.

“It’s a good looking car and size wise I think we are heading in the right direction,” said Mayor Spieth.

A memorial to the late Police Chief Randy Wheat, Warnstaff’s predecessor, will be held on Thursday June 21, according to Warnstaff.

“There will be a memorial at the grave-side with an informal gathering with a U.S. Border Patrol bagpiper at the Church of the Brethren in at 3 p.m.,” he said.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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