On Thursday night, Santa Maria airport leaders will discuss whether to re-open a U.S. Customs office at the airport.
It’s been over a decade since the Santa Maria Public Airport had a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office. Now, there appears to be support among airport board members to bring it back.
"My view is the airport has better opportunities and options for doing more business, with it than without it,” said Santa Maria Airport District Director David Baskett.
Baskett says he has been working on getting the Customs office back open for years now.
According to the airport's general manager, board members decided to close it back in 2009, in part, because of low revenue.
"It really wasn't used to its fullest potential and it was costing the airport district quite a bit of money to keep it in operation. I would've loved to market it and keep it going but that decision was already made before I arrived here at the airport,” said General Manager Chris Hastert.
To clarify, this would be a user fee Customs site. It would allow international travelers to pass through customs in Santa Maria instead of at a bigger airport.
"It's really for private aircraft flying into the airport so it doesn't help out with airline services or anything like that,” Hastert said but adds it’s a step toward having that service in the future.
The cost to bring Customs back would be about $200,000 a year.
“But that's a reasonable price, in my opinion, because they are going to have planes come in, people will land here first instead of buying gas at some other place in the U.S. to get here,” Baskett said.
According to Hastert, all board members are interested in making this happen, but at the right time. He says they need to know it will be successful before they decide to give it a go once again.
“Because we had Customs here before, if we bring it back at the wrong time and it is not successful then I can honestly say there is probably no way that we will ever have Customs again here in the future,” Hastert said.
The airport board is set to meet Thursday at 7 p.m. via Zoom to discuss this item.
For more information and to join the meeting, click here.