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$95,000 expense blindsides Town

October 22, 2010

It’s one thing to find a fly in the ointment. It’s quite another when that fly hits you up for $95,000, which is what happened Wednesday night, when the Mammoth Lakes Town Council found aforesaid fly sitting right in the middle of its airport runway.

Sky West, the United Airlines subsidiary that is to fly daily to and from Mammoth and San Francisco starting in December, hit up the town with a surprise demand for two pricey pieces of ground equipment, catching the council, Town Manager Rob Clark and Airport Director Bill Manning off guard.

The two pieces of equipment are a Ground Power Unit and an Air Start Unit.

An air start unit is a portable device for starting aircraft jet engines. It blows airflow into turbine engines to start them. A ground power unit is used to service aircraft between flights. Normally, Manning said, airlines themselves supply this equipment, and Horizon Air, the carrier between Mammoth, LAX, San Jose and Portland, has no such requirement.

But United insists the equipment be in the airport before it initiates flights, Clark said. His query to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area for help with the cost was turned down, MMSA stating it already had poured enough money into the project.

That left the town holding the bag, as it were, to satisfy a client that has signed only a one-year contract.
Clark and Manning both said the equipment would be needed anyway, even if the United-to-SFO is not extended.

To pay for this surprise and to keep the Mammoth-San Francisco on track, council then voted to use unexpectedly robust revenue from summer transient occupancy taxes (TOT).

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