Port to recommend new school site

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Charles H. Featherstone/courtesy photo Boeing 737s congregate at the Port of Moses Lake like a flock of bright-tailed birds.

MOSES LAKE — The Port of Moses Lake would like the Moses Lake School District to reconsider the location of its next elementary school.

The district is currently in talks to buy a roughly 78-acre parcel at the southwest corner of Wheeler Road and Road L Northeast in hopes of building its 11th elementary school on the southern portion of the site.

However, the Port of Moses Lake is also hoping to use the northern third of the parcel as a right-of-way for its proposed railroad extension into the port.

The parcel is also located less than two miles from the southern end of Moses Lake Municipal Airport runway, which, port commissioners say, makes it less than ideal for an elementary school.

“My only concern is that the school knows about the railroad project, but doesn’t get the gravity of what will be hauled,” said Commission President Darrin Jackson. “It’s not a good spot.”

“They do need more schools in the city,” Jackson added. “I just don’t think this site’s any better than the last one.”

The rail expansion project, which is currently under review by federal regulators, will require the construction of five miles of new track running parallel along the south side of Wheeler Road to bring the Northern Columbia Basin Railroad into the Port of Moses Lake while bypassing the old rail line that goes through downtown.

Commissioners said they were concerned that construction of a school so close to their proposed rail corridor would cause more delays for a project that is already delayed and over-budget.

A part of the rail line already goes past Longview Elementary School, and that had to be taken into consideration when planning the project, according to Milton Miller, facilities director for the Port of Moses Lake.

“We had to mitigate for that school,” Miller said.

Port commissioners were also concerned that with a school in the take-off and landing path, general aviation traffic might be shifted from the municipal airport to the Grant County International Airport.

“It’s better some things happen there (at the municipal airport) than here,” said Airport Director Rich Mueller. “That gives some relief for us.”

Commissioners said they would submit a formal comment to the Moses Lake School Board as part of the public comment period.

“We should talk about potential impacts,” said Commissioner David “Kent” Jones. “It’s not about us telling them how to do their jobs. We wouldn’t want them telling us how to do our jobs.”

Port Interim Executive Director Kim DeTrolio said she signed an agreement with Boeing to lease the company 6.5 acres of port tarmac. Bowing has long owned roughly 100 acres of land and a large hangar building at the Port of Moses Lake, and began parking 737-MAX aircraft here in June. The Everett-based aircraft manufacturer is currently storing over 50, 737-MAX aircraft at the Port of Moses Lake, and is looking at possibly leasing more space from the port, Mueller told Port Commissioners.

Port commissioners also discussed the possibility of doing some repair and upgrade work on Taxiway G — the taxiway that runs immediately to the west of Boeing, Genie and the U.S. Forest Service’s facility at the port.

According to Miller, it would cost around $23 million to redo the entire taxiway, while a partial repair would cost less than half that and still allow Forest Service firefighting aircraft and Boeing to access their parking ramps.

“We’ve been talking about doing G for years,” said Commissioner Stroud Kunkle. “We really should get it done before we go out and do any ‘maybe’ stuff.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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