Update: Gavilan plans to use portables, not Lions Club meeting hall for aviation classes

The Lions Club and Community Hall in San Martin is used by many

The San Martin Lions Club has sidestepped eviction from the
meeting hall on Murphy Avenue after the county and Gavilan College
said it will work with the Lions to achieve a functional
solution.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage, who represents South
County, e-mailed a letter to the Times late Thursday afternoon,
with an answer that may save the defacto community center that was
built by the Lions in 1984.
The San Martin Lions Club has sidestepped eviction from the meeting hall on Murphy Avenue after the county and Gavilan College said it will work with the Lions to achieve a functional solution.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage, who represents South County, e-mailed a letter to the Times late Thursday afternoon, with an answer that may save the defacto community center that was built by the Lions in 1984.

Steve Kinsella, Gavilan College’s president, does not want to lease the building, but rather bring the school’s own portable classrooms to place on the land. The community hall would remain open for use by the Lions and the community.

The building and 5-acre parcel were initially going to be leased by Gavilan College for its aviation program – a use that is required, the county says, since the land is on airport property and funded in part by a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The final plans will be negotiated between Gavilan and the Lions and must also comply with county regulations as far as permitting non-aviation related events to occur on airport land.

“I believe we have found a workable solution. I will be working with Gavilan, the Lions Club and county staff to help make this happen,” Gage said.

A slight panic rolled through San Martin as some community members met June 21 to both to inform and also encourage people to e-mail Gage and the other supervisors. On June 22, the board of supervisors met and after some discussion and testimony from two vested users of the meeting hall, Gage asked to move the item to Aug. 10’s agenda.

Michael Murdter, the county director of the roads and airports department, said the plot at the South County Airport had recently been appraised at $3,700 to $3,800 per month. The appraisal was news to the Lions Club, which will now work on a strategy that he said may include sharing the building with Gavilan.

Gage said any updates to the building or property would be paid for by the new lessee, not the county.

The Lions have argued that to retrofit the 6,000-square-foot hall, which was built by Lions in 1984, it would cost about $250,000 and thus be more burdensome than useful.

In 1983, the Lions first signed a 10-lease and two additional five-year leases at the rate of $1 a year for 20 years, but in 2004 the county requested they pay the fair market value rate of the time of $4,500 per month. It was an amount the Lions say was much too high. The county approved a $100 month-to-month agreement.

Had the item passed with the required four-fifths vote last Tuesday it would have authorized the airport director to negotiate a lease with Gavilan and essentially move forward with the Lions Club and about a dozen community groups looking for a new home.

Lions Club member Alan Black and his wife Annie testified at the June 22 meeting on behalf of the club and pointed out the Wednesday night bingo game pours in $100,000 a year to the community to assist the needy.

Black said after the meeting that he asked Gage and the other four supervisors to continue the item until a later meeting so the Lions and community could look into solutions.

“It’s not over. We have until August to put together a strategy that’s a win-win so each of the parties can come out of this with a benefit,” Black said.

Not every San Martin resident is an advocate of the Lions who have received likely the cheapest rent in the county for 20 years.

“I see no one thanking Santa Clara County for the $1 lease for the first 10 years, and the county subsidized leases since then. As a tax payer, I am insisting that our government leaders become responsible with their finances. And that is exactly what Don Gage is doing,” said Richard Palmisano, a San Martin resident. “If you want to stay in the building, pony up the appropriate money for rent.”

The stress ensued after rent at the Hollister Municipal Airport, the home of Gavilan’s aviation program since 1965, skyrocketed by $7,000 a month. The program could not support itself with a rent that steep and began discussing the possibility of leasing the South County Airport land. The lease ends with Hollister June 30.*Deb Smith, the president of Gavilan’s board of trustees, said the college is renting two hangars at the airport for $1,800 a month each.

This fall, the aviation classes will be held in a multipurpose building at the campus in Gilroy.

Smith, like Kinsella, said if the county deal is approved, the college would move portable facilities from the Gilroy campus to the San Martin site and the aviation maintenance instruction would begin in fall 2011.

The board of supervisors is expected to vote Aug. 10 whether or not to move forward with the lease to Gavilan.

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