PASCO — Crews began temporary repairs last week to protect a World War II-era air traffic control tower in Pasco from weather until a group of Tri-Citians is ready to restore it.
A nonprofit group under the leadership of Malin Bergstrom is working to raise about $70,000 for the first phase of restoring the historic Pasco Naval Air Station tower.
Port of Pasco commissioners approved initial work to preserve the tower in June after Bergstrom, president of Pasco's Bergstrom Aircraft, asked the port to consider saving the tower instead of demolishing it.
The Naval Air Station, commissioned in 1942, was one of the three largest Navy training bases at the time, along with Pensacola, Fla., and Corpus Christi, Texas.
Pasco leased the airport from the Navy in 1947 and later purchased it for $1 when the federal government declared it surplus, according to historian Walter Oberst's book Railroads, Reclamation and the River, A History of Pasco.
The Port of Pasco took it over in 1962, and a new air traffic control tower was dedicated in 1973.
It appears the tower is the state's last original naval air station tower, Bergstrom said.
However, a leaky roof in the tower had caused water to spread to the 20,360-square-foot adjacent hangar, and the port wanted to repair the hangar space so it could be rented.
The Port of Pasco hired Vincent Brothers of Pasco for $150,000 to repair the siding and roof on the tower, as well as roof repairs to the adjacent hangar. Randy Hayden, the port's director of planning and engineering, said tower repairs will be about $80,000 of the project.
If the weather is good, the project may take several months, he said.
Bergstrom said the repairs are a significant step in the right direction. The port has factored in the Pacific Northwest Aviation Museum and Historical Association's plans when fixing the tower.
The association, commonly known as the Save the Old Tower group, recently received its nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service. That will allow the group to raise money and accept tax-deductible cash and in-kind donations.
Bergstrom plans to speak to commissioners at their board meeting Thursday about a lease agreement for the tower so the group can complete restoration work.
The group has raised $4,000 of its initial goal, Bergstrom said, and hopes to reach $70,000 in the next year. They are also looking for in-kind gifts such as supplies and labor. They also will seek grants to help with restoration, which will most likely be done in phases.
Additionally, the group must deal with access, meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and determine how the public can someday gain access to the tower, Bergstrom said.
At the moment, the tower is not accessible to the public, and gaining access will mean working with the port, Transportation Security Administration and Homeland Security, she said.
"The building has been there for 70 years," she said. "We are making some good progress."
For more information or to donate, visit Bergstrom Aircraft at the Tri-Cities Airport, send donations to Save the Old NAS Pasco Tower, c/o Bergstrom Aircraft, Inc. 4102 N. Stearman Ave. Pasco WA 99301, go to savetheoldtower.com or email email@example.com.