Vista Field in Kennewick closing by end of year

Tri-City HeraldOctober 9, 2013 

— The Vista Field Airport will close at the end of the year despite a request to delay its closure until next June.

Kennewick businessman Carl Cadwell asked port commissioners in a letter to postpone the closure because he’s been unable to find hangar space elsewhere.

The port commission decided earlier this year to close the general aviation airport and to redevelop the 112 acres of prime real estate in Kennewick.

In the past, Cadwell said he depends on the airport for his business, Cadwell Laboratories, and invested $2 million expanding his company based on the port’s decision two years ago to keep the airport open.

Tim Arntzen, the port’s executive director, told the commission Tuesday that they have found a hangar in the area that Cadwell could use until he is able to build a hangar.

Cadwell said he needed a hangar because his plane can’t be parked outside because of a door leak. Arntzen told the commission he also has contacted aviation experts to help solve the leak issue.

Commission Chairman Skip Novakovich called that “another example of the port going above and beyond.”

But the commission said it is sticking with its plan to shut down Vista Field by Dec. 31, and tying up loose ends to ensure it meets that timetable.

The Federal Aviation Administration officially has been notified, and the port recently set up a plan with the Washington State Department of Transportation to pay back almost $240,000 in grant money.

“When the port commission elected to close Vista Field, we addressed the matter with the state, and they required that the grants be repaid from last 20 years,” Arntzen said. “We negotiated a repayment schedule with the state.”

The port will pay the money in four installments. The last payment is due by June 30, 2015.

The port also reached an agreement with Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute to pay back more than $70,000 the company spent to access the airport, Arntzen said. The eyecare facility has a clinic next to the airport and uses it frequently for business.

Arntzen suggested the commission approve an additional $5,000 for costs the company incurred. He said the company has been understanding of the port’s decision to shut the airport.

“Folks understand how politics work,” he said. “I have had good discussions with them. We have been mutually supportive.” Port officials have not discussed in detail how they would like to develop Vista Field, Arntzen said.

He said he expects to form a strategy on how to include the public in the process, including possible citizen action committees.

“Getting community input is critical to the process,” Arntzen said. “The public is very interested in Vista Field, and I think the public is very interested in what Vista Field looks like.”

“I think this is something where the planning for Vista Field begins in earnest after the first of the year,” he said.

Arntzen doesn’t expect Vista Field to start being developed until possibly 2016. He asked for the public’s patience.

“This is something this community hasn’t done before. One hundred and twelve acres in the heart of the community isn’t something to go out there and haphazardly start to develop,” he said.

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