ontario airport

Liset Marquez, Staff Writer
Posted: 06/30/2013 07:06:01 PM PDT
Updated: 06/30/2013 07:36:25 PM PDT

ONTARIO — To what costs would the city be willing to go to wrestle back control of L.A./Ontario International Airport?

One city official said it could be in the millions with Ontario having already dedicated more than $1 million on SetONTfree — a social and governmental campaign promoting a transfer of ownership and tackling Los Angeles’ management of the airport.

And with the filing in less than three months of multiple lawsuits challenging the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports, which operates ONT, that million-dollar figure could grow.

“We knew if we were going to decide to file a lawsuit we were going to have to invest in millions of dollars to save our airport or throw in the towel and lose billions to our economy,” said Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner, who is president of the Ontario International Airport Authority.

In 2007, 7.2 million people traveled in and out of the Ontario airport. Today that figure has dropped by 40 percent, according to Ontario officials. In 2012, the airport handled 4.3 million passengers, a number that is expected to drop below 4 million in 2013.

The decline in air service at ONT from 2007 to 2009 was a $400 million blow to the Inland Empire’s economy and the loss of more than 8,000 jobs, Wapner said, referring to a report released in 2011.

Ontario officials contend that LAWA, which also manages Los Angeles International and Van Nuys airports for the city of Los Angeles, set a sale price of $474 million for ONT — nearly double the $250 million Ontario offered last year.

Ontario officials have already spent more than $160,000 on lawyer fees and are willing to spend at least $500,000 in the new fiscal year to ramp up their fight against LAWA and L.A.

“We’re going to do anything and everything, and we’re not going to stop until we have local control,” Wapner said. “We feel it’s a fight we need to win.”

Wapner said he has never heard any opposition from his constituents since the city first started its battle against LAWA more than four years ago.

Despite the battle and the recession, Ontario hasn’t had to reduce services or lay off staff, he said.

Ontario Councilman Jim Bowman, who also serves on the airport authority board, said the City Council has directed the city manager to use any and all means necessary to return ONT to local control.

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