Fast Focus 'Future of Vista Field:' Unique location

February 24, 2013 

Whether Vista Field stays open or closes has no direct impact on me, which offers me the opportunity for an objective view of the situation. To me, it appears that for the past several years, the Port pf Kennewick has been planning for a closure while it "shopped" for study results that would justify the planned closure. Claims by the port that costs to improve the field are too high seem weak when, in truth, the costs of the multiple studies would have offset those capital improvement costs. When Dr. Shannon submitted an operational proposal to the port, his figures were misrepresented by port officials. So when trying to decide what the truth is, I am left with the old adage, "who benefits?"

Who does benefit from the closing? Clearly the port benefits by closing what they see as a "white elephant" operation and gains an enormous cash influx from the sale of property. The city of Kennewick benefits from expected increases in sales tax. Benton County benefits by increased property taxes. KID benefits, as they own adjoining property which will increase in value, although I suspect none of this additional income will benefit ratepayers. Developers will benefit, as they always do, by the sale of property developed at the expense of the port, ostensibly from the proceeds from prospective property sale. Builders will benefit from profits gained from contracts secured. The Tri-City Herald will benefit from increased business ads and residential subscriptions. Makes me wonder how objective these parties can be.

Who does not profit? Well, there will certainly be an increased traffic flow around the area. Columbia Center Blvd., Clearwater, Deschutes Ave. and Grandridge Blvd. will most certainly become harder to navigate. And the proposed development includes multiple residential units, which means another request from the Kennewick School District for another bond measure to increase classrooms due to additional students. Additionally, what of the unfunded improvement costs related to closing and development costs incurred by the port and city?

Promises by politicians and bureaucrats seem to have little merit once the deed has been done. So I, am highly skeptical, maybe even cynical about the "why and how" of closing Vista Field.

- JOHN PARKER, Kennewick

Fact or fiction

Why did the consultants not include the years between 1980 and 2004? Did someone conveniently not give this information to them? Vista Airport provided a gateway to this community during these years and was not a drain on the community as the Port of Kennewick suggests.

Kennewick Aircraft operated off of Vista Field in late 1979 in a shack across from where the new building would be built in 1981, Gil Mayfield had a 99-year lease on the airport and with investors built the FBO building. Kennewick Aircraft then moved into the new building and offered all the services that is expected of an FBO.

Before too long, pilots were flying in from all over Eastern Washington and Eastern Oregon to go shopping and do business. Vista was now a destination.

The city owned the airport from the mid 70s to 1991, when it was purchased by the Port of Kennewick. Since then the port has done everything in its power to make sure Vista fails, and they have done it in a slow methodical, and some would say, "devious" way.

They first put Kennewick Aircraft out for Request for Proposal (RFP) which they had never done before, (our lease had lapsed while we, in good faith, were negotiating a new lease.) We wrote a proposal, and, although we had all the equipment in place and were already providing a full service FBO and were the high bid, the port still awarded the bid to Ben Tuttle, whose only experience was having a mechanic's license.

Within about a year or so the port rewrote Tuttle's lease (I read it) and included a clause that if there is any negative news about the future of the airport, the port would buy out Mr. Tuttle in the amount of $75,000. The clause also stated that Tuttle would not publicly voice any comments on Vista's closure then or in the future. Similarly, Mr. Musser and Gaunt were offered a large amount of money for their hangars, with the same stipulation as Tuttle.

Needless to say everyone took their money and left.

Now, except for Cadwell Labs, they have removed all of the big players, and makes it almost impossible for anyone, except for maybe Mr. Bill Gates to improve and operate the airport as the port stipulated in their lease. Well done, Port of Kennewick, mission accomplished!

I would like to thank the Port of Kennewick for its actions, as we, Kennewick Aircraft (DBA Sundance Aviation) are now at the Richland Airport where the Port of Benton realizes how important an airport is to the community. The Port of Benton has been so supportive to us. To quote Sally Field, "They love us. They really really love us."

-- SUZIE KELLY-DYER, Richland

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