Airport tower faces uncertain future

Right now, it's a crumbling World War II tower on the east end of the Tri-Cities Airport.

But it could be a coffee shop or a museum or maybe a place to hang a welcome sign to private pilots flying into the Pasco-based airport.

Those were ideas Malin Bergstrom, president and general manager of Bergstrom Aircraft, suggested as to what to do with the unused air traffic control tower that originally was part of a naval air station.

Port of Pasco commissioners have been talking for months about what to do with the aging structure.

The tower leaks water into an attached hangar. It also attracts pigeons, posing a health risk, port Executive Director Jim Toomey said Thursday.

It's estimated that it could cost $60,000 to demolish the tower. Another estimate shows it could cost about the same amount to temporarily fix the problems.

Bergstrom attended Thursday's meeting to ask them to consider spending the money to temporarily fix the problems and to give her some time to see if community members are interested in preserving the historic structure.

"All I'm asking for is time," said Bergstrom, whose company is the fixed-base operator at the Tri-Cities Airport. "Two to three years."

She said it is the only original naval station tower in the state and one of few in the country.

Dick Ciccone, a retired Army officer, also urged commissioners to consider preserving the tower. He said many people in the area know someone or have a connection to someone who was stationed at the naval air station.

"I think it's part of our rich history, and we should honor that generation for their contributions and sacrifice," Ciccone said.

Commissioner Jim Klindworth said he doesn't want to see the port spending money to tear down something that many in the area have a connection to, but he also didn't want the port to spend money to shore it up temporarily without a plan of what to do with it.

Commissioner Bill Clark said it seems like the port will spend $60,000 either way. So he suggested giving Bergstrom three to four months to gauge community interest in coming up with money and a plan to preserve the tower.

Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck, who was attending the meeting as an audience member, said county commissioners receive a certain amount of state money to use on historic preservation projects.

Peck said he would be willing to advocate to have some of that money go to this project.

He also suggested the port consider having the tower placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which might help to secure money to preserve it.