Deer problem replaced by coyote problem at airport

OROVILLE – As the city council voted to approve the final bills for the airport improvement project, which included a fence around the facility, they also heard the deer problem has been replaced by a less hazardous coyote problem.

While the deer were a major problem, posing a hazard on the runway, coyotes have started to dig under the new fence and have been chewing on the wires for the landing lights, according to Steve Johnston, airport service manager at Oroville’s Dorothy Scott International Airport.

“We don’t have a deer problem anymore, but the coyotes have taken over. The coyotes are in love with the runway lights,” Johnston told the council at their Tuesday, Oct. 20 meeting.

Johnston said there was an FFA advisory that suggested the fence be buried at least 24″ under ground so dogs and other animals can’t tunnel their way under.

“The coyotes are chewing up the runway lights… at first it looked like vandalism. I personally don’t have a problem with coyotes, we just have to walk the fence and back fill where they have dug under,” Johnston said, agreeing to keep the council updated on the issue.

“It’s a little like Caddy Shack and the gofers, what are you going to do?” asked Johnston.

The council heard that the airport improvement project that put the fence around the airport and built two heli-pads using a $418,589 in FFA and state grants was completed. The final step was adding railroad-type ballast around the two heli-pads to help keep dust down.

The airport service manager also reported that the state legislature was trying to fashion stronger language stating that airports were an important part of the transportation system and to make it easier to ensure the flight path is clear for safe take-offs and landings.

“We are not trying to close development between the airport and the lake, but we need to do everything we can to get proper zoning out there,” Johnston said.

Although the airport and nearby Skyview Industrial Park are part of the city, they are surrounded by unincorporated county and county government is in charge of zoning in those areas.

Under new business, Police Chief Clay Warnstaff reported he had picked up the city’s new patrol car, which his department had purchased, used from the City of Connell, Wash.

“It’s a nice car and in good shape, the tires have about a years worth of tread left. They also gave us a nice light bar to go on it, it’s about a $2500 light bar,” said Chief Warnstaff.

The chief said that the radio console from the patrol unit wrecked in a collision with a cow this summer needed to be transferred to the new department vehicle. He also said that Randy’s towing had come up and got the wrecked patrol car.

City Clerk Kathy Jones said the city has still not received the check from the insurance agency for the totaled patrol car.

Debra Donahue, ambulance coordinator, thanked the city for their support of the EMS District’s efforts to improve the level of care. The city agreed to two EMT’s, Donahue and Christy McDaniel, getting their IV Tech training.

“It’s not easy… we’ll be very well educated,” Donahue said.

Although there was a generous benefactor willing to pay for the training, the EMS District Commissioners voted to approve $3500 to pay for it. Donahue said the benefactor’s offer would be saved for another need for the district.

Jones reiterated the impacts the passage of Initiative 1033 would have on the city and the fact that it is being sought when most local governments are suffering from the recession.

“The council as a legislative body cannot go out and campaign against it, but they can go out individually and talk about the negative impacts of the initiative if it passes,” Jones said.

If passed the measure caps year-to-year growth in revenue and any increases in revenue go toward lowering property taxes, according to Jones.

“This year when we are in recession would be used to establish the baseline,” she said.

A letter from Emily Rimestad, general manager of Oroville Reman and Reload, to Chris Branch, Oroville’s director of Community and Economic Development, was shared with the council. The letter thanked Branch and the city for their efforts to get the stretch of SR97 between the Canadian border and Oroville’s railhead designated a Heavy Haul Corridor. She said the company had hired five new employees in the past six months and was looking to hire five more (see related story this issue).