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Moses Lake mulls future of muni airport

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | March 24, 2022 1:05 AM

MOSES LAKE — The City of Moses Lake is looking at options for the future of the Moses Lake Municipal Airport.

According to Municipal Services Director David Bren, the city is examining ways to develop the airport, located at the intersection of Road L Northeast and Road 4 Northeast north of town, following a request from the airport board that the city simply doesn’t have the resources to effectively run the airport.

“The airport board is very concerned that the city can’t really manage the airport,” Bren told members of the city council at a regular meeting on Tuesday.

Currently, the municipal airport is both owned and operated by the city, Bren said. However, the city does not have the money to fund and develop the airport properly, so any potential development at the airport will likely have to include some kind of public-private partnership, Bren added.

“We need to fund the airport properly, and we’ve not done that,” Bren said. “We don’t have an airport manager, and we need a separate maintenance budget.”

Currently, Bren said the costs of maintaining the airport are covered by the city’s general maintenance fund, as hangar and business leases are not covering the costs.

Jeffrey Bishop, a consultant with Effectuate and former executive director of the Port of Moses Lake, studied several options for the airport — including the creation of a residential airpark — but said the current environment for private financing is riskier than it was even only two weeks ago, thanks to a recent hike in U.S. interest rates and the looming shock to the global economy caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a presentation to the city council, Bishop said he examined four options for the airport — continued city ownership and operation, two mixes of public-private partnership, and full privatization of the airport. All four options are available to the city, but governments have a fiscal stability that private developers can often lack, he said.

“Governments have patient capital, and they aren’t in a hurry like private developers,” Bishop told council members.

At the council’s previous meeting in March, Bishop examined creating a 100-lot airpark subdivision that would mix houses with hangars and allow residents to drive their airplanes down subdivision streets and park them in their personal hangars.

The general consensus among council members is the airport should remain in city hands but a deal should be worked out with a private party to develop and even possibly manage the airport.

“Both make sense,” said Council Member Mark Fancher of the public-private options. “We’d have to look at a development agreement and see what it would be like.”

Mayor Dean Hankins said the council would like to have a recommendation for the airport when the council meets in early April.

“I hope to solve this by the next meeting,” Hankins said. “We need to see how agreements would look in more detail.”

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

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