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home : current news : current news May 24, 2016

6/4/2013 2:08:00 PM
City brainstorms airport opportunities

The city council met with Benny Benson, owner of Sisters Airport, in a Thursday workshop to brainstorm on opportunities that airport annexation and expansion presents to the city and the Sisters Eagle Airport and grounds.

City Manager Andrew Gorayeb presented a list of possibilities for discussion, most of which resonated with Benson and councilors.

"This is an opportunity to work out some complex issues that might exist between us (the city) and the airport. I think we should try to come to some facilitated agreement," said Gorayeb.

In the discussion that followed, there were many areas of common ground.

The need to get the runways snowplowed coincided with the mutual desire to keep Barclay Drive plowed by the city from the Barclay intersection with Locust/Camp Polk road to the base of the hill. This would allow access to the community gardens - space donated by Benson and prepared and maintained by his father, Marvin. It would also provide better Barclay Drive access for school buses, and access to the emergency services helicopter pads (donated by Benson).

As part of the annexation, the airport has to pay for connecting city water and sewer lines to the airport complex. Since the ditches have to be dug anyway, it might make sense to run high-speed data lines in the trench that would allow city access to off-site computer backup facilities. ENERGYneering Solutions, Inc. (a Benson company located at the airport) will be running these lines anyway to secure their own sensitive data.

In the process of covering the water and sewer lines back up, it might make sense to repave the area with a bike/ped trail extension that would run the length of the property from the community gardens down to Larch to connect to the city's bike path system. This would allow locals bicycle access to the community gardens. It would also allow visitors that fly in a way to get downtown. Benson has plans to have a fleet of loaner bicycles just for that purpose.

Additionally, the city is working on plans that include a private company and some grants to provide a "bike-share" network in the Sisters municipal area. Benson agreed in principal to house one of the bike share stations. This would allow anyone to check out a cruiser bike using a credit card, and return it later at any other rack downtown for no charge. This type of program is being rolled out in a number of major cities in the U.S. including New York and Washington D.C.

Benson's plans include an upgraded pilots' lounge for the airport that would include amenities for a brief stop, and connections for a longer visit (maps, brochures for local hotel/motels, restaurants, local attractions, etc.). The group agreed to pursue a joint-venture effort to provide a kiosk that would show off and provide connections to the city's many commercial and recreational offerings.

Down the road a bit, Benson would like to build hangars for frequent or long-term visitors that would include a hangar at ground level, with an apartment and storage area above. This would allow pilots to securely leave "toys" (skis, bikes, hiking gear, etc.) for when they visit. It is expected that ownership of these units would be by fractional-share. Renting these units out when the owners do not anticipate using them through a vacation rental service is also a consideration.

It was agreed that such fractional-share units would be subject to the city's transient-use tax. It was also agreed that the soon-to-be installed aircraft fuel station at the airport will not be subject to the city's gasoline tax, which is dedicated to street maintenance.

A joint venture on a community ice-skating rink and/or beach volleyball court were also mentioned.

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