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Probe: February 15, 2001

February 15, 2001

QUESTION: On Saturday some friends and I went to the Holtville Airstrip to watch the Royal Air Force Falcons parachute team. We were invited by the British team.

We didn't get to see the demonstration. A man, claiming he owned the land, threw us off. The British better read their contract, he said. According to him, guests are not allowed on the property.

One couple had driven 300 miles to watch the jump.

Who owns the Holtville Airstrip? — Disappointed, El Centro

Imperial County owns the airstrip but Charles Phillips and his Combat Heritage Foundation holds a 50-year-lease on 2,025 acres of county-owned land surrounding the strip.

He has been throwing people off the airstrip for years.

Phillips paid $1 a year for the 50-year lease of the 2025-acre parcel. The county hung tight in the 1984 negotiations insisting Phillips pay the rent for the entire 50-year period upfront — the whole $50.

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Phillips and his foundation bought another chunk of nearby land. His acquisitions gave him control of all non-BLM land around the airstrip, depriving Holtville residents from the use of their backyard desert.

The foundation fenced people out of popular recreation areas, including Weinie Bake Hill, which youth groups, families, bikers and three-wheelers had used for years. It also made camping off-limits to winter visitors.

How did this come about? Phillips and his foundation talked grandly about building an air museum that would attract air shows from across the country. Airmen flying vintage World War II planes would come from all over the world to compete, he said.

"If we build it, they will come," he promised.

It never happened. But in 1984, a vote against the project would have seemed anti-veteran, anti-patriotic and demeaning the sacrifice of the World War I and World War II heroes.

The lease contract promised the county 2 percent of the gross receipts from the air shows and 3 percent from food, beverages, parking and museum admissions.

The project has produced little if any money for the county.

County Airport Manager David Conn said Phillips and his foundation owes the county $18,000 in back taxes.

SNOW CAPPED MOUNT SIGNAL — Snow covered Mount Signal in 1932 and again in 1967 or 1968.

I don't remember the month it snowed the last time but I remember Mount Signal was covered in snow once when I was a junior in high school.

Your newspaper had pictures of it. It also ran file photographs of Mount Signal covered in snow in 1932. — Class of ‘69, El Centro

We remember that winter. It was cold with snow flurries and rumors of flurries one whole week.

QUESTION: I am not deaf but "hearing-impaired." Do you know if anybody provides cellular phone service for the hearing impaired? — Not Deaf, El Centro

We made a lot of phone calls but the best we could find was phones at Airtouch that allow you to turn up the volume.

However, we expect we will hear from other readers who have found the phone you need.

A spokeswoman at the disabled students office at Imperial Valley College said she had seen phones for the hard of hearing in a catalog. She couldn't immediately locate the catalog but she promised to keep looking.

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