Unfounded rumors riled fliers to question town’s actions
By Ann McCreary
Local pilots who use the Twisp Municipal Airport were assured that the Twisp Council supports a project to build a new taxiway on the south side of the runway.
About a dozen pilots attended the April 11 council meeting, apparently alarmed by rumors that a grant to fund the taxiway project was being held up or rejected by the town.
Town officials have discussed plans to submit a grant this spring to Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for $250,000 for the project, which has already received $80,000 from WSDOT for engineering costs.
At a discussion of the project during a council meeting last month, Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said she had questions about the project design and the status of plans to relocate a fuel tank that is located where the new taxiway would be built.
The mayor’s questions were evidently interpreted by local pilots as opposition to the project, and the pilots made their concerns known to town officials.
“I’ve been approached by pilots because they felt the council was not supportive of this moving forward,” said John Fleming, a council member who sits on the airport’s advisory committee.
“We’ve spent a pile of money on engineering — why wouldn’t we be? I was mystified how after that meeting the perception was that the town was not supportive,” Fleming said.
“I got letters saying, ‘What is your problem?’ That was sort of annoying, “ Fleming said.
“The channels of communication need to be better,” said Mike Port, airport manager. He said he felt as if “nobody knows what’s going on” after the mayor raised questions about the taxiway project last month. The mayor was out of town and did not attend last week’s council meeting.
“Several pilots have complained that the grant application for construction of the south taxiway had been permanently stopped by the council and mayor at the March 27 meeting. This is not the case,” Howard Moss, Twisp’s interim public works director, said in a report to the council.
“I believe the mayor wants the [airport] committee to meet and discuss related issues with the design, the required match, and the airport fuel tank relocation status,” Moss said.
At last week’s meeting, Port went over the schedule for the project, including a deadline next month to submit a grant request to WSDOT. The project has been identified by WSDOT as necessary to address safety issues resulting from deteriorating asphalt on the taxiway, he said.
“Everyone here is wholeheartedly in support of this project,” Fleming assured Port and the pilots who attended the council meeting last week. “We are aware of the [grant] deadline, so it’s moving forward.”
A Spokane-based engineering firm that specializes in airports is designing the project and preparing the grant application on behalf of the town. The town will need to apply both this year and next year for grants totaling $500,000 to complete the project. The grant requires a 5 percent match from Twisp.
One of the questions about the project involves a fuel station that is maintained through a cooperative agreement among 18 pilots at the airport. The fuel station is not part of the town-owned airport facilities and the cost of relocating it will not be covered in the grant, Port said in an interview after the meeting.
Pilots will pay the costs, estimated at less than $5,000, to relocate the fuel station, which will comply with Federal Aviation Administration regulations, Port said. The current fuel station “is grandfathered-in,” he said.