Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vista Field: Port spent almost $202,000 on studies during past decade

KENNEWICK -- The Port of Kennewick's current study of Vista Field likely will cost more than all the other airport studies the port has paid for in the past decade.

But it does appear the new study might answer questions and provide more detailed planning than was done during those years, according to a Herald review of those studies.

The port has spent almost $202,000 studying Vista Field since 2002, according to port documents. That does not include all of the cost of an ongoing hangar condition study.

Recently, the port hired Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. of Portland to study investing in the airport, and closing the 90-acre airfield and redeveloping it. The study was approved for up to $225,000.

The Herald reviewed nine past studies that dealt with airport planning in the past decade. Many were available on the port's website.

The studies analyzed included the port's master plan for the airport along with studies done prior to the port commissioners' vote to keep the airport open in 2010.

The master plan updates in 2002, 2005 and 2011 cost the port nearly $63,000. The proposed capital improvements for the airport included a new fixed based operator building and new hangars.

Eight of the nine studies were commissioned and paid for by the port. The city of Kennewick hired Belt Collins of Seattle for nearly $56,000 to analyze alternatives for Vista Field, including keeping the airport open, expanding the airport and closing it for redevelopment.

However, that 2008 study used data for airport usage that has since been called into question. It also does not appear to include a detailed cost and benefit analysis of each option, which is supposed to be part of the current study by Duany Plater-Zyberk.

And the study by Duany Plater-Zyberk is supposed to determine the best possible option for a viable airport and a viable redeveloped area, according to port officials. It also includes extensive planning and will go through the Environmental Impact Statement process for each alternative.

And the return on investment will be part of what is explored, the consultants have said. Market demand and risk are being considered.

An economic analysis of the airport was done in 2010, but there no actual activity count included. Instead, estimates that do not appear to have any data backing them up are used. And airport-related business and their economic impacts were based on what the businesses said. There does not appear to be any confirmation that those businesses are directly tied to the airport.

The current study will include an analysis of airport activity based on an actual count of takeoffs and landings done earlier this year, according to port officials.

The information from the current study will be presented to the public, which will then have a say in what happens to the airport through an advisory vote next year.

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