Regional redevelopment group steps up efforts to take control of SCLA
January 22, 2011 8:11 PM
Natasha Lindstrom and Brooke Edwards

VICTORVILLE • Members of a regional redevelopment agency are ramping up efforts to take control of Southern California Logistics Airport away from Victorville, with Hesperia demanding details on how its neighbor has been handling the agency’s $300 million in outstanding debt.

First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said his goal within the first quarter is to get a member consensus on putting the Victor Valley Economic Development Authority back in charge of SCLA. He has warned it may be in the best interest of the region to make VVEDA — made up of the four cities of the Victor Valley and the county — an independent operation governing SCLA.

“(SCLA) should be right back in the board of VVEDA,” agreed Hesperia Councilman Thurston “Smitty” Smith. “That’s the way it should be run. From the board aspect instead of one member agency.”

Hesperia City Manager Mike Podegracz sent a letter dated Jan. 3 to Keith Metzler, Victorville’s Economic Development director and executive director of VVEDA. The letter lists 12 specific requests detailing the debt obligations, principal amounts, interest rates, maturity dates, funding sources, debt service schedules and more.

Victorville City Council formally received the letter Tuesday, and city officials responded Thursday that they’re working on getting Hesperia the answers and hope to have them within 30 days.

“We’ve been concerned for a while now but we have finally collectively between the five council members said, ‘Yes, we have to start asking questions,’ ” Smith said. “We just have concerns with the way the money has been spent or the way it was meant to be spent.”

Though revenues from every local city are pledged to repay SCLA’s debt, the Daily Press revealed in October that at least one quarter of the $300 million in outstanding bonds funded Victorville’s own projects off SCLA property, including land for a city-owned library and work on the Victorville 2 power plant.

VVEDA — which was created to oversee redevelopment of a 16-square-mile area impacted by the closure of George Air Force Base — had control over SCLA before it was SCLA. The federal government transferred the property to the regional agency soon after George Air Force Base closed in 1992. VVEDA eventually ceded control of the airport to Victorville.

The showdown over control of the airport has been brewing since 2009, when VVEDA members expressed distrust in Victorville controlling the financial management of the authority, and Mitzelfelt said he was eyeing VVEDA finances to ensure tax money was properly spent on SCLA-related infrastructure.

The situation boiled over in November, when Victorville City Council backed away from a longstanding agreement on how tax revenues are re-invested in SCLA.

The council agreed on a split vote to pledge only 50 percent of the city’s tax increment generated by businesses within the VVEDA project area back to SCLA when it comes to future bonding. Previously — as part of the deal struck when Victorville got control of the airport — Victorville had dedicated 100 percent of that tax revenue to SCLA projects.

Smith said it would be “not at all” fair for Victorville to lower the amount it pledges toward VVEDA and still maintain control of SCLA.

The last VVEDA meeting was Aug. 25, and none are listed yet in the online schedule for 2011. The authority typically meets at least quarterly, with committee meetings often held monthly in the past.

In the meantime, Smith’s eagerly waiting for Victorville’s response to the requested figures.

“Hopefully it will put all the concerns at ease,” Smith said. “We just need some answers.”