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ML Council delays discussion of homeless site purchase, talks new PD

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | March 15, 2023 4:45 PM

MOSES LAKE -- The Moses Lake City Council met for nearly four hours Tuesday and failed to discuss all of the items on the council agenda, including selecting a new site for the city's sleep center for the homeless.

Much of the council's time was taken up at the Tuesday meeting, which did not end until 10:15 p.m., with a discussion of the nearly $390,000 contract with Wenatchee-based DOH Associates to oversee construction as the owner's representative of the city's new, $15 million police station on N. Central Drive.

Rejecting the contract in a 5-2 vote, Council Member Mark Fancher, Dave Skaug and Dustin Swartz wondered why the city was hiring DOH Associates when the architect of the new police station was already being paid a $1.5 million to design the building and likely oversee construction. After a lengthy discussion followed by the vote, council members agreed to table further consideration until the contract with the architect is reviewed to see exactly what services the city will receive from the building designer.

The council also engaged in a lengthy discussion of leases at the city's municipal airport before voting 7-0 to continue the discussion of airport leases at the council's first meeting in April.

At a previous meeting, the council asked for a study of lease rates at similar small, city-run airports after staff found the city was not in compliance with state law requiring airport leases to meet fair market value. Assistant City Manager Rich Huebner suggested raising the lease rate to 21 cents per square foot from the current 7.59 cents per square foot for commercial property at the municipal airport and 13.9 cents per square foot for non-commercial leases.

Moses Lake Municipal Airport Commission President Rod Richeson, who leases a hangar at the airport for his aircraft repair and customization business, said rates do need to increase in order to provide the airport with the funds they need for improvement work, but raising rates that much would make future development at the airport difficult.

Richeson noted that to most tenants, the airport leases ground, which a tenant must then borrow to build upon. Only long-term leases make that kind of lending feasible, he said.

"We need more income," Richeson said. "It's hard to develop at the rates we now have, and it's hard to get people to develop out there."

Huebner said his office asked 20 smaller airports across Eastern Washington for their lease rates, received responses from eight, of which only six were usable for the city's comparison.

"I don't have high confidence we would get more (responses) than we got," he said.

Finally, the council ran out of time to discuss a measure that would authorize City Manager Allison Williams to negotiate a deal to buy land for the city's permanent sleep center. According to documents included in the agenda, the city has budgeted $1.44 million for the land purchase and has examined three sites in detail -- the proposed location of the new Moses Lake Police Department station on N. Central Drive, the Moses Lake Irrigation and Rehabilitation District's headquarters on E. Wheeler Road, and the location of the now-defunct Kyoji's Restaurant at 440 Melva Ln, near the intersection of W. Broadway and I-90.

Under current council rules, meetings are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. and must end by 10 p.m., though the council can extend them. Tuesday, council members extended the meeting 15 minutes to hear staff reports and agreed to put discussion of the sleep center land purchase on the agenda for its next meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 28.

NOTE: The Columbia Basin incorrectly reported who presented information on the new Moses Lake Municipal Airport leases, which was given to the council by Assistant City Manager Rich Huebner. The Council also voted 7-0 to delay consideration of changes to airport leases to a future meeting. The story has been correct to reflect these changes.

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