Mayor discusses safety issues regarding air tower closure

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Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker answers a question from a citizen during a “Talk Around Town” meeting Tuesday night. Whitaker’s discussion focused on the recent air tower closure and homeless shelter (MIMI HUNG / Daily Titan)

Fullerton Mayor Bruce Whitaker discussed safety issues concerning the proposed homeless shelter and the Fullerton airport communication tower being shut down with residents at the monthly “Talk Around Town” meeting on Tuesday night.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced the closure of Fullerton Municipal Airport tower along with 148 other air traffic towers nationwide Friday, due to the sequester that was enacted in March.

Jim Gandee, president of the Fullerton Airport Pilots Association, stressed his concern about getting rid of Fullerton Municipal Airport’s air tower.

Gandee said an air control tower is necessary to regulate air traffic in the busy skies seen in Southern California.

“Without the tower ability to separate the aircraft, the skies are crowded and I believe, will become a more dangerous atmosphere with the increased potential of a mid-air collision in and around the Fullerton area,” said Gandee.

Gandee said he attempted to contact Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Ed Royce to protest the tower closure, but has not received a response from any of them.

Whitaker took the opportunity to respond to Gandee’s concerns on the issue during the meeting held at First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton.

He expressed his own concerns with the tower and said the city is doing its research to make sure the closing of the tower will not put Fullerton residents in harms way.

“I appreciate some suggestions that he (Gandee) has and I do believe that the city does have concerns about safety in general regarding the airport. So I want to see some real estimates on the dollars involved in the process,” Whitaker said. “I’d be in favor trying to locate local dollars to try to replace that (air tower).”

The other safety issue discussed is the proposed homeless shelter that the Orange County Board of Supervisors plan on building at 301 State College Boulevard.

Residents expressed concerns about children walking past the homeless shelter on their way to and from Commonwealth Elementary School.

The city’s existing homeless shelter is open about five months out of the year.

The proposed shelter would be year-round and would accommodate over 200 beds as well as offer opportunities for homeless people to improve their lives.

“I’m concerned about the kids at Commonwealth,” said Kelly Zilliac, a Fullerton resident. “I just want to make sure our kids are safe.”

The Board of Supervisors has approved purchasing a closed Linden’s Furniture store for $3.2 million.

The acquisition of the building was funded by Fund 15B, which is controlled by the County Executive Office.

The need for a year-round homeless shelter was one of the determinations made by a homelessness committee convened after Kelly Thomas, a homeless man in Fullerton, was beaten to death by Fullerton Police in July 2011.

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