PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend commissioners initially approved using funds from the Industrial Development District earlier this month to purchase a mobile home that will act as a pilots’ lounge at the Jefferson County International Airport.
Executive Director Eron Berg, who took over the positon on Monday, put the project on hold Wednesday night due to “shifting economics.”
Commissioners unanimously voted March 11 to use Industrial Development District (IDD) funds for the improvement.
The cost of the mobile would range from $65,000 to $72,000, staff said.
Commissioner Pam Petranek hesitated because she did not want to act so quickly, but she voted for the project.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “It has been on the master plan since 2015.
“I don’t feel good about the urgency of being told to make a decision today, based upon a price change next week.”
Over the years, the Spruce Goose restaurant has opened its doors to provide a restroom for visiting pilots. However, the business closes at 4 p.m., making it unavailable for later flights.
Commissioners had previously discussed having a free-standing bathroom or building an airport terminal that would have an area for pilots to record their flight plans, but they couldn’t find appropriate funding resources at the time.
Staff suggested looking at an RV or mobile home, which would require minimum infrastructure support and would provide the necessities for visiting pilots, such as restrooms, coffee stations, desk space and a place to wait out of the elements for rides.
Ideally, the visitor center would open at the same time that the runway at the airport reopens, staff said.
IDD funds cannot be used for operations, so the port could not use the funds to pay a person to run the visitor center.
The funds are intended for capital and economic development and maintenance, which this facility would fall under, said staff members.
“I still believe that IDD funding should fund this. It’s something for District 2, and I want to make sure that IDD funds get spent around the county, not just at Point Hudson,” said former Executive Director Jim Pivarnik on March 11.
“It’s something that, I think, to have a facility out there with no restroom is really tragic. I think we really need to at least have that out there.”
According to the commissioners, the placement of the visitor center next to the control tower would minimize infrastructure costs as it would be very close to necessary hookups such as water, sewer and electricity.
The port was offered another building to transport and renovate to be a visitor center, but the cost would be more than buying a mobile unit, staff members said.
“There was an offer of a free building … but when we looked at the building and the transport and renovation of the building, we were at these kinds of numbers, it was just financially more advantageous to do it this way,” Commissioner Bill Putney said.
Jefferson County reporter Ken Park can be reached at 360-328-1601 or [email protected].