Airport weighs hangar option | SierraSun.com

Airport weighs hangar option

Despite pressure to build hangars, the airport board will continue to gather information before it moves forward on building and planning for new hangars and a new terminal building.

At the August meeting, board members decided to draft plans for phases one and five of the hangar project.

The engineer’s estimate for the proposed hangar places the cost at $50 per square foot, which would increase rental costs compared to the cost of the old hangars.

In an effort to defray the costs, board members, airport staff and residents discussed ideas about funding.

“I think we need to figure out how much people are willing to spend and then we go back and figure out a way to build a hangar at that cost,” said boardmember Don Starbard. “It’s like the real estate market, build a dozen and see what happens.”

Board member Ken Foster suggested leasing the hangars for 20 years, instead of yearly.

“Build 12 hangars with our money, with whatever requirements we have to deal with … and then offer those hangars on a 20-year lease with all the money paid up front,” he said.

This setup, he argued, would give the district the money it needs for the hangars up front and bring a different, more permanent customer base to the airport.

“You’re not going to get a lot of people, but you might get twelve,” he said, noting that the cost of a 20-year lease could be around $150,000. “I mean you have some very interesting people out here.”

Citizens agreed that the airport should look at different ways of funding for the hangars, but most seemed to want hangars as opposed to a new terminal building.

“There is no direct return on investment (on a new terminal),” said local aviator Tom Meadows.

Board President Barbara Northrop argued that the new hangar policy needs more time to work before the board can make an accurate decision about the number of hangars the airport needs.

Before a decision is made, the airport will send out surveys to current hangar tenants and those on the hangar waitlist asking questions about how much current and future customers would be willing to pay for a hangar.

A couple of residents asked board members to consider remodeling the existing terminal building to save money.

But the board pointed out that remodeling would extend the life of a building that was earmarked as being a temporary building.

Airport Controller Janna Caughron noted that the building is “functionally inadequate” from an aviation point of view.

Speaking as a resident within the district, Caughron said she would like to see the terminal building constructed first because it would serve a larger portion of the community.

“I would like to see something done for all the taxpayers,” she said.

The current airport terminal would most likely be used as an office building for local non-profits when the new terminal is completed.

General Manager Dave Gotschall warned that there might not be a big market for hangars and urged the board to proceed with caution.

“With the current economic forecast, I think it would be too big a risk for this district to take,” Gotschall said about building the hangars.

He also said he would like to see the board pick one project and pursue that, instead of trying to complete both projects at the same time. Gotschall also said he would like to see the terminal built first because it’s a project that would benefit the whole community.