Port commissioners vote to demolish hangar

MOSES LAKE — Commissioners overseeing the Port of Moses Lake voted Monday to demolish several old buildings, including one hangar likely dating from the time of the airport’s original construction in the 1940s.

“It’s not worth saving,” said Port of Moses Lake Executive Director Don Kersey of the hangar building.

In a 2-1 vote, commissioners agreed during a regular meeting to spend roughly $812,000 to demolish the hangar building, an old pump house, a small storage building at the corner of Randolph Road and 22nd Avenue, a loading dock, and a small building that sits alone in a field south on the main runway. The buildings are being demolished because they are either too old to maintain properly or too small to lease out, commissioners said.

The contract was awarded to 3 Kings Environmental of Vancouver, Washington, which will recover as much of the wood and metal from the old buildings as possible, according to Port Facilities Director Milton Miller.

The lone dissenting vote was cast by Commissioner David “Kent” Jones, who said he was concerned about the amount of money the port was spending on projects without an overarching plan for what the port hopes to achieve with those projects over the next few years. Instead, Jones proposed demolishing only the hangar, and leaving the other four buildings for later demolition.

The price tag on demolishing only the hangar — including removal of the building’s foundation — came to roughly $600,000. Commissioners, however, voted 2-1 against Jones’ proposal.

“I’m not opposed to the project. I’m opposed to spending the extra $200,000,” Jones said.

“We need to do the whole thing. When it comes time to do the other buildings, it will cost more,” said Commissioner Stroud Kunkle.

The hangar, known as Building 408, sits next to the Grant County International Airport’s main terminal, and according to Port of Moses Lake Business Development Director Richard Hanover, two companies have expressed an interest in leasing the space and building their own hangars once the current building is demolished.

According to Commissioner Darrin Jackson, demolition work should begin later this summer.

“They (the buildings) should be gone by the end of the year and cleaned up by March of next year,” he said.

While the port is currently opening up a portion of the western side of the airfield to new development, including new hangars of various sizes, the demolition of Building 408 would also open up to new development a portion of the airport that cannot currently be developed, in large part because the ramp — the parking area for aircraft behind the main terminal — behind Building 408 is crumbling, World War II-era concrete.

In fact, when Delta Airlines parked aircraft grounded in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the portion of the ramp in 2020 and 2021, those aircraft were towed slowly to their parking spaces in order to ensure chips of concrete did not damage the airplanes.

“Basically, it’s gravel,” Jones said.

Miller told commissioners the Federal Aviation Administration has money for airfield improvements — it paid roughly $20 million to remove a hump that blocked line-of-sight in the GCIA’s 13,500-foot-long main runway, and also provided funding to upgrade the ramp where AeroTEC currently has its hangars — but securing FAA funding takes time and requires building to agency standards.

The port can save money by repairing the ramp to less than FAA standards, Miller continued, but if it fails to meet those standards, the FAA won’t cover any of the costs.

However, Jones’ primary concern was the roughly $3 million the port is looking to spend on capital improvements this year — everything from the building demolitions to a new fire truck to pavement repairs — compared with the roughly $1.6 million it has on hand. Jones said the port needs a plan in order to determine which projects are priorities and which are not.

“We can’t continue to spend $1 million more than we have. We have to pay that back someday,” Jones said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at [email protected]