Brookings City Manager Janell Howard said Tuesday the sky is now the limit since the city and Curry County closed on the sale of the Brookings Airport late last week.
The closing was delayed numerous times, partly because grants the county held needed to be closed and the sheer volume of documentation required of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.)
“It was originally supposed to close before (then-City Manager) Gary (Milliman) retired,” Howard said. “Then it was right after Memorial Day. Then the end of June. Then …”
Curry County Administrator Clark Schroeder credited County Attorney John Huttl and Community Development Director Carolyn Johnson for their work in closing the deal.
“They did a bang-up job on it,” he said. “In the end, the city will be able to be much more responsible from an economic development standpoint if opportunities come along.”
Commissioner Court Boice said Brookings will be able to manage the facility much better than the county could, for a variety of reasons, including the proximity of the airport to city operations.
“It’ll be a great source of pride for this whole region someday,” he said. “They’ll do a better job. I’m happy for Brookings; they’re sitting in a very good position to make it work.”
Getting to work
While it’s exciting news, Howard admitted, the city’s got its work cut out for it.
“It is exciting,” Howard said. “It’s a big deal, and a good fit for the city, and that’s what the county was looking for, too, was someone who can take it to the next level. It’s always been the Brookings Airport, but owned by the county, so it’s a regional asset. We want to make the most of the asset.”
County commissioners have for years balked at the proposal to transfer what the FAA calls “sponsorship” of the airport to Brookings, even though they admit the county doesn’t have the cash to conduct maintenance — or make improvements.
During the drawn-out closing period, the city has taken over maintenance of the airport to keep it in compliance with FAA regulations.
“Even the length of the grass is regulated,” Howard said, with a laugh. “It’s a lot of property out there. Just keeping the terminal in working order — just day-to-day issues. I’m not saying the county wasn’t (maintaining daily chores), but once the sale was going through, it was very much on the back burner.”
The county, too, this week delivered about 10 boxes of paperwork for the city to peruse, Howard said.
Other immediate work will ensure leases are up to date, evaluate agreements with the Brookings Flying Club and select a firm to craft a new master plan, required by the FAA every five years. The city plans to talk with the club, its volunteers and Cal-Ore Life Flight, the main tenant there.
“They have the continuity, the historical information that’s critical,” Howard said of the flying club. “It’s the perfect first step. We’re looking forward to it.”
The city recently solicited for Requests for Qualifications from firms to develop a new master plan, which will likely be far different than any plan currently in place, she added.
“The to-do list is growing,” Howard said.
It could take up to a year to develop a master plan to address the airport and what might be permissible on the land surrounding it.
“I picture the first project — and this is just me — will be development of an industrial park,” she said.
She doesn’t envision an area where massive industrial manufacturing would take place, but perhaps smaller venues where up-and-coming industrial manufacturers can get their start.
“Like, you come up with idea in your house and you’re ready for the next step,” Howard said. “It’s to give someone the ability to do something at the next level to get to a bigger market.”
She said the master plan should address that in more detail.
Another idea that’s been bandied about is a fire training center. Steep terrain in the area presents a challenge, she said, but won’t preclude exploring the idea.
The city recently extended water and sewer services to the area, which will likely attract other users, Howard said.
“Some of the property is way closer to shovel-ready because utilities are there,” she said. “We’ll work with South Coast Development Council to connect with businesses looking to locate here.”
Brookings Flying Club President Nelson Sprague said he’s glad to see “someone who is interested in the airport, for a change.
“We’ve been running it for the county with no thanks or money,” he said of the club. “Anything the city does is going to be better than what has been happening. Any activities the city conducts, any interest in the airport, will be a refreshing change. We’re welcoming that.”
Sprague said bushes need to be trimmed, and taxiways and parking spots painted.
He noted, too, that “every airport” he’s been to has business surrounding it.
“Brookings has nothing,” he said. “It should be explored. (The city has) a lot on the calendar, and there’s a lot of opportunity for great expansion there. It’s a good thing for Brookings.”
Pilot Alan Nidifer said he looks forward to working with the city and Deputy Public Works and Development Director Jay Trost. He’d like to see better approach and departure procedures — bad-weather capabilities, he said.
“As a pilot and club member, I’m excited to have what appears to be an interested owner and manager,” he said. “It will be nice to have someone enthusiastic about keeping the airport maintained and have some vision and support to move it forward, as well. I’m very excited to see some growth potential in the city. We’ll see.”
Reach Jane Stebbins at firstname.lastname@example.org .