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Moses Lake Municipal Airport set for growth

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | February 25, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — The future looks both busy and bright for the Moses Lake Municipal Airport.

However, that wasn’t always guaranteed, according to Deputy Mayor Daryl Jackson.

“We have had troubles since the inception,” said Jackson, a former Moses Lake mayor and long-time member of the city council. “This is a city-owned airport, so you’re going to build private facilities on leased ground.”

Jackson, who is also the founder of the pilot-training school, Jackson Flight Center, based at the municipal airport at 3540 Municipal Airport Road NE, said because of the wording of a section of the city code stating the city could close the airport with only 90 days notice (later raised to 180 days), no one had a lease they could take to a bank as collateral or security for a loan to build a hangar or any other kind of aircraft facility or improvement at the airport.

“Banks do not do short-term leases,” he said. “So, the conundrum has been can you, some way or another, extend the leases out so individuals could build on city-leased property and are able to bank the lease?”

Jackson said the city has struggled with this since the mid-1990s. However, a 20-year, $175,000 loan awarded to the city by the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Community Aviation Revitalization Board (CARB) to build a fuel depot at the airport guarantees its operations for the next 30 years, Jackson said.

“Now, there’s no question the airport will remain open,” Jackson said. “Now you’ve got something bankable.”

Jackson said because of this, he expects some significant development at the airport — new hangars and maybe even a new pilot lounge.

“We have people standing in line to build new hangars,” he said. “There’s not any hangar space available here at all. Every year, I bet we get between 10 and 20 requests for hangar space.”

During a meeting Tuesday night, the Moses Lake City Council changed the language in the city code to more narrowly define the circumstances under which the city would cease to operate the airport — such as a closure order from the Federal Aviation Administration or the determination the land is more valuable used another way — finally paving the way, after more than 25 years of struggling with this, to make long-term leases possible.

“I sincerely hope in my lifetime never to see this come to me again,” Jackson said during the meeting.

Also at the Tuesday meeting, the council voted to accept the “donation” of two buildings owned by Flying T, the crop dusting company owned by Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, as the site of the proposed new airport storage shed and fuel depot.

According to Moses Lake City Manager Allison Williams, the donation will effectively pay for the remainder of Dent’s lease at the airport, which according to agreement, extends to the end of 2037.

“I’m getting some compensation for it, not really what it’s worth, but I’m okay with that,” Dent said Wednesday morning at his hangar in-between meetings of the state Legislature’s Republican Caucus. “I made a living out here for a long time, I can give something back.”

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