The Santa Maria Public Airport Board of Directors is going to have to get computer savvy very quickly when it gets its hands on a new software system that will allow the directors to easily monitor all of the details of the airport’s many leases.


The board will get a presentation on the new secured web-based system Thursday when it meets at 7 p.m. at the airport administration building.


“We started developing the software over a year ago,” said General Manager Chris Hastert, adding the company, ProDIGIQ, was a start-up company from UCSB students. “Now it’s out of Calabasas doing work with a lot of airports.”


The company offers safety, operations, maintenance and lease management systems to airports.


The new software will allow the five directors to track almost every aspect of the airport’s numerous leases, which include everything from take-offs and landings, grazing and farm land to fuel flow and rental cars with a few clicks of a mouse.


“It tracks pretty much everything we want it to do, and when we think of other things, they add those in for us,” Hastert said.


A number of those leases are up for renewal and are included on the board’s consent agenda.

Among them are the Gresser Inc. sublease to Ochoa Farming of 54 acres and a pair of 12-acre parcels.


The board will also consider awarding a contract for roofing repair of the airport’s paint hangar to Derrick’s Roofing, Inc. of Santa Barbara. The company provided the lowest of seven qualifying bids at $119,800, well below the engineer’s estimate of $130,000.


7/11/12   By Brian Bullock/Staff Writer/

Chance Skaufel and Kyle Blum picked up pretty much right where they left off two years ago — battling each other lap after lap around the Santa Maria Karting Association (SMKA) race track.

With action resuming Sunday on the course that sits on the grounds of the Santa Maria Public Airport, the track’s nearly two-year closure was officially over.

“It’s good to be back. I’m very glad the track is back in Santa Maria. I get to see — and race against — some of my old friends,” said Skaufel, who is now 13-years old (”I’ll be 14 in October”) and will be a freshman at Pioneer Valley High School in the fall.  The last time Skaufel raced at the Santa Maria track (Aug. 8, 2010), he left a winner.  At that time, he was an 11-year old about to enter the seventh grade at Kunst Junior High. He won what was, at the time, the final race in the track’s 52-year history.

With the track closed down, Skaufel and his fellow racers had to leave town to continue their racing careers.  “Last week I had to go to Fresno to race,” said Skaufel. “We were at the two-cycles (IKF — International Karting Federation) Grand Nationals. Most of the racers were there practicing for a whole week. I could only get there for two days of practice before the races began.”  And yet, competing with that disadvantage, Skaufel managed to earn the fourth place finisher’s trophy.”

“We’ve had to do a lot of traveling to keep racing,” said Chance’s father Kirk Skaufel. “We’ve been competing in the IKF regional races. We’ve been to six or seven regionals — and it’s at least three or four hours to the nearest track.”  Now with the track’s re-opening, Skaufel was one of the first racers to hit the 7/10-mile road course.

In the 23-months since the closing, the SMKA board of directors, Santa Maria Airport Board, airport general manager Chris Hastert and the Federal Aviation Administration worked to find a solution that would allow the Karters (formerly called Go-Karters) to return to the track and resume racing.

“I’m really excited. This makes me feel good,” said SMKA Board of Directors President Scott Grundfor. “We’re having a great first day — a great turnout. It’s great to see the kids back out here. There are a number of old duffers, too — like me.”

With a new three-year lease in hand, the track officially re-opened Sunday for a day of practice and pick-up races.

And it’s where Skaufel and Blum — among many others — were re-united.  Blum is also a veteran Kart racer. He is now 16-years old and will be a sophomore at St. Joseph High in the fall. He’s had many on track battles with his old friend but he hasn’t been hitting the IKF regional circuit.

“I’ve only raced at Apple Valley since this track closed,” said Blum. “It’s nice to be back. I’m looking forward to racing here. This track is really fun.”  Skaufel and Blum then headed out to the track for a practice run in Top Karts — Senior Division racers with 125cc engines that can hit 80 miles per hour down the track’s straight-away.  Just like old times.  Blum took the lead right off the bat.  Skaufel stayed right on Blum’s rear bumper while, at top speed, they both got the feel for the course.  On the fourth lap, Blum passed on the backside. He kept the lead through the 12th lap when Skaufel re-took the lead.

And then it was game-on. Neck-and-neck, one or the other just inches in the lead until a snap, crackle and pop — a bolt holding the radiator mount got loose, a radiator support strut snapped and Bum’s day was over.  He came back to pit row — slowly — and, after Skaufel saw his friend slow and leave the track, he, too, pulled off the course.  “That was fun, until it broke,” said Blum. “Did you see us. We were going close to 80 miles an hour in the straights.”

The boys and all the racers will have to wait for another day.  But now they know there will be another day — and soon — at the SKMA course.

There’s a practice weekend, open top all racers, next weekend — July 7-8.

The IKF is ready to return, scheduling a weekend of IKF Region 7 racing August 3-5.

And the Pro Karters are coming for a weekend of Shifter Kart racing August 17-18.

The SMKA is also partnering with the Santa Maria Airport to hold open racing, presented by the Vintage Karters Club, during this year’s Santa Maria Airport Air Show and plans are under way to resume SKMA club racing in the near future.

The complete schedule and all kinds of information about the club can be found on their website at

“It’s like a family re-union,” said Grundfor. “It’s really good to see everyone coming back.”

By Elliott Stern / Sports Editor /



The Santa Maria Public Airport District Board of Directors cleared the runway for the next fiscal year Thursday by approving the airport’s 2012-13 budget and clearing up a significant CalPERS debt.

After reviewing the budget since its introduction on June 14, the board voted unanimously to approve the spending plan which features a $3.9 million operating budget, an increase of 3 percent over last year.

When the budget was introduced, General Manager Chris Hastert called it a “status quo” budget with a few notable increases.

The airport is investing approximately $28,000 in upgrading its computer support services. Hastert said new software and online records back-up safe guards the airport’s documents and operating systems.

The airport also agreed to provide financial incentives to Allegiant Air to land its new service to Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition to cutting the carrier breaks on landing and fueling fees, the airport will provide approximately $45,000 in advertising for new flights. The increase bumps the advertising budget to $88,000.  The carrier announced last month that Santa Maria, Stockton, Eugene, Ore., and Bellingham, Wash., would join Fresno and Las Vegas as West Coast airports that would offer flights to Hawaii. Flights from Fresno and Las Vegas began this month. Service from the other four airports will begin in November.

The 2012-13 budget sets aside $50,000 for the November general election with four of the five seats on the ballot. The terms of board President Carl Engel, Vice President Don Lahr, Hugh Rafferty and Chuck Adams are all expiring.

Normally only three seats on the board are up for grabs at any one election. But because Lahr was appointed by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to replace Ted Eckert, who died last year after being elected in 2010, he must run as well, according to Billie Alvarez, the county’s chief deputy registrar of voters.

The district will contribute $27,000 to the Museum of Flight this year for the “Thunder Over the Valley” air show. Only $15,000 was budgeted last year.

The board also decided to pay off the debt incurred by a CalPERS side fund by writing a check for $319,584. The fund was established by CalPERS in 2003 to serve municipal agencies and special districts with fewer than 100 employees, and the district was paying 7.75 percent interest on the 30-year loan.

Engel, who was on the board when CalPERS established the fund, objected to the program saying CalPERS was playing a “shell game” with the district’s money.  He said that the board was never asked whether or not it wanted to participate in the fund nearly 10 years ago when it was established.

District Counsel Ray Biering referred to the debt as a “bad credit card” that was “imposed” on the district, and recommended paying it off to avoid even more interest costs.

Veroneka Reade, district finance and administration manager, reported that paying the debt off now would save the district $480,000 in interest charges over the length of the loan.

The board voted 4-1 to pay the debt, with Engel casting the dissenting vote. 


By Brian Bullock/Staff Writer/    June 29, 20

Santa Maria’s historic Go Kart track is back in business.  After a nearly two-year hiatus, the Santa Maria Karting Association (SMKA) has been given clearance for takeoff by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

SMKA is celebrating the 4th of July a bit early, getting the green light to re-start racing this weekend.  “Re-opening day is Sunday, July 1 and we’re all set,” said SMKA President Scott Grundfor. “The SMKA track is coming back to life and everybody is very excited about getting this back up and running.”

After a 52-year run, the Kart track closed after the International Karting Association’s (IKF) Region 7 championships on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2010. For the record, Chance Skaufel — then an 11-year old student about to enter the 7th grade at Tommie Kunst Junior High — won the final race.

The Kart track sits on the southwest corner of the Santa Maria Public Airport. The FAA oversees the airport and had the airport board end the Kart Association’s lease nearly two years ago.

“It wasn’t the airport so much, the issue had to do with the FAA,” said Grundfor. “The FAA was trying to deal with issues on airport property that would benefit the airport in the future. The Kart Association was something they felt needed to be taken care of.  “Our task was to gather enough support to educate everyone that the track was a unique community treasure and not any detriment to the airport or the FAA rules.” 

Getting everyone to agree took nearly two years.  “It takes a while to get these things done,” said Grundfor. “I had no idea when I got involved in this project that it would take so long to re-open but thanks to the support of the community and airport General Manager Chris Hastert, we were able to get the job done.

“We have always enjoyed the support of the community and the airport board and we just kept at it until we got the support of the FAA. A big part was the support of Congresswoman Lois Capps who intervened with the FAA in Los Angeles and made them aware of our situation. Congresswoman Capps and her staff  were willing to listen to us and go to bat for us. I suspect that was the difference.”

The association has signed a new three-year lease with the airport board. Grundfor says he hopes the association will be able to extend that lease to give the Karts a long lease on life in Santa Maria.

Local Karters will no longer have to leave town to pursue their passion.  “In order to participate in Kart racing, you had to go up to Monterey, or to this Mickey Mouse track in Marina or head south to Riverside to a track that somehow has survived or head over to a track near Bakersfield,” said Grundfor. “This Santa Maria track is a real treasure. Racers all over the country will tell you that this is one of the very best tracks in California and the United States.”

The track regularly hosted IKF national championships in its three main racing divisions — two cycle, four cycle and shifter Karts and Grundfor expects to see IFK title racing here again in the near future.

“We put in a bid for the 2013 Sprint national championship, the biggest Kart championship in the United States,” said Grundfor. “We’ve been accepted as the backup bidder, so there is no guarantee for 2013 but I’ll bet we get it for 2014.”

After Sunday’s opening, there are three regional races coming to the track in August with the possibility of some club racing in between.

It’s shaping up to be a busy day when racing resumes Sunday.  “We’re expecting 100 Karts and will probably run 40 to 60 informal races,” said Grundfor. “We’ll run different classifications from novice to expert. There’ll be something for every racer who wants to come out.”

There’s no charge for admission and the public is encouraged to come out. There is a $20 entry fee for each race Karters want to enter and a $10 fee for pit passes for non-racers.  The gates open at 9 a.m. with racing expected to run until about 5 p.m.

June 27, 2012 12:00 am  •  By Elliott Stern/Sports Editor/

When the Santa Maria Public Airport Board of Directors meets Thursday to discuss the airport’s 2012-13 budget, it will essentially be filing a flight plan for the facility’s future.

The airport’s $3.9 million operating budget — excluding depreciation —  is up just 3 percent over last year, but it will be for a vastly different and busier facility.

The main runway at the airport now measures 8,004 feet, which is 1,700 feet longer than a year ago. The $12 million extension has helped the airport land a new commercial service and a contract with the U.S. Forest Service as an air tanker reloading base, said General Manager Chris Hastert.

Allegiant Air announced this month it would begin weekly flights to Honolulu from Santa Maria in November, and in October 2011 the Forest Service reopened its air tanker reloading station. Hastert said it’s unlikely either service would have happened without the longer runway.

“The airport overall, we’ve been making progress on a lot of small projects and a lot of big projects that are really bringing us into the future,” Hastert said, adding the runway extension and upgrades to the navigational aids are the most notable improvements. “Hawaii is definitely one of those destinations that wouldn’t have been possible with our old 6,300-foot runway.

“In addition to that, the runway also helps with the Forest Service tanker base. It’s back to being a permanent tanker base. It’s staffed and we’re happy to be working with them and bringing in larger aircraft even up to the DC-10 which is working out of Victorville.”

The runway extension project siphoned off money from the airport’s reserve funds, Hastert said, but even so it was a bargain. Because the project was funded with Airport Improvement Program grant money, it only cost Santa Maria around $600,000.

The runway construction and associated expenses dropped the airport’s reserve fund to approximately $5.6 million at the start of the current fiscal year. But Hastert said the 2012-13 budget projects adding approximately $700,000 to that fund. The fiscal year begins July 1.

The board meets at 7 p.m. in the administration building.

Some of the capital improvement projects budgeted for next year are improvements to help the airport handle the added passenger traffic Allegiant’s Hawaiian service will bring. A new passenger boarding ramp that will reach the cabin door of a Boeing 727 and additional seating for the terminal are part of the budget.

Other capital projects include upgrades to firefighting efforts, including a new engine — estimated to cost around $650,000 — and new fencing and access lanes to the runways which are estimated at nearly $600,000.

“We continue to make improvements and continue to be more attractive to the airlines for additional air service. The fact that we have additional air service coming to Hawaii is definitely going to benefit us as to how airlines look at us for additional service,” Hastert said. “Our big push on that is eastbound regional jet service to a hub. Our top market right now is to the Denver area and eastbound from there. Denver is the perfect next city for us especially with Vandenberg (Air Force Base) and their contractors, there’s a lot of activity through Colorado Springs.”

Among the budgeted expenses for the coming fiscal year is $50,000 for election expenses. Four members of the airport board, which Hastert credited for continually modernizing the facility, are up for re-election in November.

They are current President Carl Engel, Hugh Rafferty, Chuck Adams and Don Lahr. Lahr, who was appointed by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to succeed Ted Eckert, who died last year, is included with the directors whose four-year terms are ending.

“We have an excellent board of directors that has brought forth a lot of projects that have helped us stay competitive,” Hastert said. “It’s just a big system that if we just grow each part of it a little bit at a time, it will continue to grow and take off.”

June 27, 2012   By Brian Bullock/Staff Writer/