Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wiscasset Airport (KIWI) panel talks Peregrine, picks up tenant search

Wiscasset’s airport advisory committee on July 19 thought up ways to find a tenant for the upstairs office space, vacant since Peregrine Turbine Technologies moved out last year.

Members said Town Planner Ben Averill had led the search. Funding for the planner job ended June 30. But members said the town needs to stay active on it, or Wiscasset Municipal Airport will keep losing the rental income – $900 a month under Peregrine’s lease.

“(That) was a significant amount of income that has to be made up elsewhere,” Chairman Steve Williams said. “It would be nice to get that (space) rented.”

Member Ray Soule said he has been invited to attend Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission meetings. Those could provide valuable information on finding a renter and other topics, he said. He also suggested putting the rental on Craigslist.

Also July 19, Williams announced member Bryan Buck resigned earlier that day. In an email response to a request for comment, Buck, a pilot, wrote: “The airport is in good hands and my goal now is to fly the cub and enjoy the airport and let some fresh blood advise the select board team.”

Buck’s departure creates an opening for a volunteer for the five-member panel, Williams said. If interested, contact the town office at 882-8200.

Airport Manager Frank Costa was on vacation. Reviewing Costa’s monthly report in his absence, Williams commented on Costa’s suggestion of a study into extending the runway. Williams said the Federal Aviation Administration would not fund a longer runway because the region already has longer ones in Brunswick, Augusta and Rockland. “They’re just not going to do it.”

He also said he would like clarification on the report’s reference to serving Lifeflight with a longer runway. Costa said July 20, the runway can already accommodate a Lifeflight helicopter, but not a Lifeflight plane. He said, for Williams to say the FAA wouldn’t fund an extension was putting up a wall instead of encouraging the airport’s progress.

Members discussed Peregrine Turbine Technologies’ possible return to the airport to conduct testing.  Member Pam Brackett, co-owner of Chewonki Campground opposite the airport on Chewonki Neck Road, said she had a “real concern.” Asked later about her comment, she said if there were additional noise from the airport due to the test facility, that would be a concern for her. Members said it was their understanding Peregrine will be taking over a private hangar.

Soule, who chairs the planning board, told Brackett the campground would be notified when a public hearing is set. Soule said the board would need to review a site plan, “primarily because it comes under the heading of change of business, or a change of occupation. So they need to come before us and do a site plan. There’s quite a bit to it.”

In response to the Wiscasset Newspaper’s request for an update on his plans, Peregrine Turbine Technologies owner David Stapp writes in an email July 20, he has a hangar under agreement to purchase. Its current owner David MacDonald built it as a site to build and test an experimental aircraft, the email continues.

“My purpose for the hangar is to build and test an experimental propulsion system ... The town Select board expressed to me that they considered this no change of use especially since I am storing my aircraft there and therefore no planning board review was necessary. At this point I don't have any plans for a site review per the town's instructions and will look to the Select Board and town manager to advise if they have changed their opinion.”

As for Brackett’s noise concern, Stapp states that the prior week, he went to the campground to let Brackett and her sister know he is sensitive to their concerns about noise “and will be taking steps to mitigate it.

“I have already tasked my engineers with implementing noise abatement methods in the test setup.  Our tests will be taking place in early winter when her campground is not operating. This testing in the hangar is only temporary (approximately two months) and will be complete long before her next camper season begins. Noise generated by our test is expected to be far below the noise generated by just about any aircraft operating at the airport.

Stapp adds, Peregrine Turbine Technologies has a long history of working to benefit the town in job creation, business and special event promotion and increasing the tax base. “We are committed to being good neighbors to our friends here in town. I hope that is clear to all concerned.”

The committee’s next meeting is tentatively set for 5 p.m. Aug. 16 at the airport.

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