VACAVILLE — The Jimmy Doolittle Center has teamed up with Solano Community College in an alliance that could get the college the aviation facility it wants and help smooth the way to get the center the aviation museum that it has been trying to get built for years.
Taxpayers under the alliance could finance up to $15 million through a property tax hike approved by voters in November.
Talks had been going on for some time between the center and Solano College to establish the college’s aviation program in a building next to the center’s proposed two exhibition buildings, restoration facility, hotel and restaurant.
The Solano Community College board of trustees unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding at its Oct. 16 meeting to build and operate a building near the Nut Tree Airport that would serve as the college’s new aviation facility.
Solano College President-Superintendent Jowel Laguerre, said funding of the college portion of the land and to build the aviation center would come from the $348 million Measure Q bond, which was passed last year to pay for expanding the college district’s facilities and programs.
Once built, the document states that the proposed aviation facility could house Solano College aviation, theater, hospitality and museum curator programs.
There is no estimate of how much it will cost to build the entire Jimmy Doolittle Center or how much it will take to build just the college’s proposed aviation facility. The memo said that college district’s contribution would not exceed $15 million.
The agreement gives Laguerre the authority to work with Jimmy Doolittle Center representatives to acquire land, build the aviation facility and negotiate with the center on how best to jointly develop the center.
Under the agreement, both sides would work together to share resources to save each other costs; share and participate in programs that would include the college’s aviation, theater, hospitality, museum and curator programs; and allow the museum to provide historic aircraft for the college’s aviation program students to repair and restore, which would expand the district’s aircraft maintenance and operations program.
“This is a synergy that would benefit both of us,” Laguerre said of the proposal that could give Solano College the aviation facility that it would not have been able to build alone. “It is really exciting.”
Representatives of the Jimmy Doolittle Center did not return calls Tuesday for comment on the development.
The center is presently trying to buy 11.4 acres between the Nut Tree shopping center and the Nut Tree Airport, land that is presently owned by CT Realty Trust. CT Realty Trust has offered to sell the property to the center for $1.6 million.
Under the memorandum of understanding, the center would buy the land and Solano College would pay the center for its portion of the site, the size to be determined by the two parties.
If the Jimmy Doolittle Center is still not built five years after the land is acquired, the center will sell its portion of the property to the college district.
Laguerre said that the agreement with allow both sides to “create something bigger together than we could each do alone.” Working together, Laguerre said he hopes to see a facility built within two to three years that Solano College students could use.
“We are making the best of the taxpayer’s money and bringing together different members of the community,” Laguerre said.
George Guynn, who has kept a close eye on the college district’s spending and Measure Q funds, said he is unhappy with the agreement. He said that Solano College still does not have a project list that lays out systematically how the district plans to spend all the Measure Q money.
Guynn is president of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group.
While he supports expanding vocational education programs such as those the aviation facility will offer, Guynn prefers that Solano College not risk public money with an organization that has not yet established itself and is still facing the challenge of raising several million to build the proposed center.
“If they are able to raise the money, it may be a good thing, but it is risky,” Guynn said.
“There is still the question of whether government should be in business with private organizations,” Guynn said. “Should we be developing business with public money?”
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.