A small airport envisions a big future

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MOSES LAKE — Members of the Moses Lake Airport Advisory Board are wrestling with the future direction of the town’s small airport.

“There was a state study done that said this airport brings $16 million to the town of Moses Lake,” board member Tim Prickett said at a regular board meeting. Tuesday. “Just the airport, with normal things (and) people arriving.”

The single-runway airport on the southwest corner of Route 4 and Route L northeast sits in the shadow of the much larger Grant County International Airport, host of the annual air show , jumbo jets full of cherries taking off for China, military exercises and a fleet of Boeing 737-MAX aircraft awaiting repair and overhaul.

But the small airport itself is home to several small repair shops. It’s also where Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, keeps an office in a shed full of Republican Party campaign banners from past elections, and it’s where Daryl Jackson, a former City Councilman from Moses Lake, and his son Darrin, a current Commissioner overseeing the Port of Moses Lake, have their pilot training and aircraft repair business, Jackson Flight Center.

It’s an important place to do business, Prickett said, and it needs to be preserved. Because development, especially residential development, can wipe out small airports, he explained.

“What we’re trying to do here is maintain our airport as an airport,” he said.

Four of the five council members – Prickett, Richard Pearce, Darrin Jackson and Finley Grant – were present, while the fifth council member, Dent, was absent. Also present at Tuesday’s meeting were a number of pilots and airport business owners, as well as Moses Lake Mayor Dean Hankins, council members David Eck, Judy Makewell and Deanna Martinez, and Director of Municipal Services David Bren.

Although the members of the advisory board have a number of concerns, they are mostly frustrated that they are only an advisory board and have no real power or responsibility to actually run the airport. They also fear that the money the airport generates — mostly in the form of leases for hangars — is going into the city’s general fund and not the airport.

“I would like to see the (city) council fund the airport,” Darrin Jackson said. “And give the advisory board real responsibility for managing and maintaining airport properties like lights, tee and weed control.”

At the start of the meeting, Bren proposed a residential and commercial airpark development that would combine the approximately 60-acre municipal airport with most, but not all, of the 95-acre primarily agricultural land that currently houses the city ​​operations complex. He said the city and the airport board had a “golden opportunity” to set the airport on course for at least the next 50 years.

“I really think everyone in this room shouldn’t waste this opportunity,” Bren said, adding that the city council wanted guidance on what to do with the airport at its next meeting.

Bren said it would be fairly easy to turn the advisory council into a commission, but it would also require the council to pass an ordinance.

The airport board is scheduled to meet April 8 at noon in Municipal Airport Building 5-1 at 11905 Route 4 NE to vote on a recommendation to Moses Lake City Council. The first city council meeting in April is scheduled for Tuesday, April 12, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at 321 S. Balsam St.

Rod Richeson, an employee of the Port of Moses Lake who also owns the maintenance and repair company Blue Sky Aviation at the municipal airport, said a good first step would be to put some power back on the airport between the hands of airport commissioners rather than a less formal advisory board.

“Let’s just take this small step and bring some of this decision-making back here closer to the actual airport,” Richseon said.

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

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