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City severs airport ties with local port

The Sunnyside Municipal Airport Advisory Board has gone through some changes since its last meeting in February, both in board members and in direction, due to changes in city staff.

As a result, Tuesday night's meeting ended up resetting the stage for the relationship between the Port of Sunnyside and the city with regards to the airport.

"At this time, the city will not be entering into the interlocal agreement," Sunnyside Interim City Manager Frank Sweet told the rest of the board. Sweet had told the city council about his intent to not enter into the agreement at the last council meeting, so the news was not a surprise. However, several board members expressed concern.

Port Commissioner and board member Jim Grubenhoff told Sweet that the airport had just sat there with nothing happening until the port got involved. The airport was a low priority for the city, and without the port, the airport would not be getting the automated airport weather station.

"The port has invested a substantial amount of time and money in the airport," Grubenhoff said. "We want to make sure it isn't pushed into the background by the city again."

Airport advisory board chairman Larry Dolan noted the long history of neglect.

"The track record has not been good," he said. "It's never been a priority of the city."

Mayor and board member Mike Farmer said the problems would not happen again.

"We have a city manager in place that will not allow (the neglect) to happen again," he said. "The city certainly appreciates the port. I think your feelings are just. The city has done a poor job."

Sweet said the airport needs to be a marketable asset to bring people to the city. "I believe we can be successful. I would not have recommended that the city take on the airport if I didn't think we could do it."

Airport advisory board member Ted Durfey also expressed concerns and reminded Sweet and Farmer of the continued importance of the port.

"I welcome the city being actually involved," he said. "I'm glad to see everyone working together. Remember that the port owns land around there we may need in the future."

Durfey said a Lear jet had landed at the airport Tuesday morning. Dolan noted that a longer runway would bring more jets that would also bring more business to the city.

"The port had the foresight to purchase land near the airport," said Dolan.

Sweet said the city wants a chance to run the airport properly, and that he has no problem going to the port for assistance and for continuing to use the advisory board to exchange ideas and information. He also said the lack of the interlocal agreement at this time does not mean it will not happen eventually.

"We may come back later to do an interlocal agreement," he said. "We have got to make this a real, viable airport. All of us have to work together."

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