Victoria Regional Airport

Kevin Butts and Erik Bonenberger, pictured in January 2018, walk past a hangar at the Victoria Regional Airport. 

The Victoria Regional Airport made a profit in 2018, the first time the public airport has been in the black in decades.

Victoria County commissioners received meeting minutes from the airport commission Monday. The minutes showed that the airport made a profit of $60,000 last year.

The county hired Lenny Llerena to be the airport’s executive director in 2017 and tasked him with turning around the struggling facility’s finances. The airport had repeatedly lost money and seen low ridership for years. Llerena said he wasn’t sure when the airport had last broken even but estimated it had been at least two decades.

Llerena said he was able to balance the facility’s budget by reducing some costs, including in personnel, and by focusing on the airport’s revenue. Llerena said airport staff renegotiated leases and made more office and hangar space available to rent to create new or additional sources of revenue for the facility.

“Airports are enterprises. We are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration that we are as self-sufficient as possible,” Llerena said. “When we’re as self-sufficient as possible, we don’t take any subsidy from the taxpayers, as in years past.”

In November, a new airline took over the Essential Air Service contract to provide commercial flights in and out of Victoria. Llerena said Boutique Air has seen increased ridership compared to its predecessor, Texas Sky. Llerena said Boutique was forced to cancel some flights in January and February but that overall ridership was still higher than under Texas Sky and that the airline appeared to be back on track in March.

Also Monday, commissioners received bids for upgrading the parking lots outside of two county buildings, the Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center and the office for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3. Two companies, Lester Contracting Incorporated and Brannan Paving Limited, submitted bids. Each company submitted three different bids based on different proposals for the work, and the costs ranged from about $411,000 at the lowest proposal to $600,000 at the most expensive. Commissioners received the bids at Monday’s meeting and will review the proposals.

The body also approved a contract with the Austin-based law firm Allison, Bass & Magee, which the county is retaining for a lawsuit that names former elections chief Vicki Vogel as a defendant. The lawsuit was filed over the Texas Secretary of State’s attempt to remove noncitizens from the state’s voting rolls, during which state officials told counties to check the citizenship status of almost 100,000 registered voters. The state’s effort was quickly criticized by civil rights groups and local elections officials, who say they received confusing instructions from the Secretary of State’s office. Victoria County initially asked that about 100 voters prove they were citizens or else risk being removed from the voting rolls but later halted its review of voters’ citizenship when repeated flaws in the state’s data became apparent.

Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at cmccarthy@vicad.com or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara.

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers public health and health care for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. Questions, tips, or ideas? Please get in touch: cmccarthy@vicad.com or call 361-580-6597.

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