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Airport board moves forward on developing policy for leases

A discussion of airport leases became the main topic during the Sunnyside Municipal Airport Advisory Board's meeting Tuesday afternoon.

At the last regular city council meeting, Mayor Jim Restucci asked for direction from the council, which was in favor of longer term leases, perhaps with a price break for lengthier terms.

However, members of the airport board who lease land from the city explained to the board that longer term leases are needed not because of any potential price break, but because the renters need to be able to secure loans for improvements to the land, such as hangers.

Board member Gary Pira explained that lease terms for airport land are generally 30 to 50 year agreements and are reviewed every five years. Vice-chair Ted Durfey said the rates increase every five years based on the consumer price index.

Board member and Sunnyside Port Executive Director Jay Hester suggested the city should consider a minimum of 25 years on a lease to reduce the costs of having to renegotiate leases every few years.

A lease drawn up for Durfey was presented to the board and Hester asked to send the lease to the city legal department to review as a possible template for all new leases at the airport, and then to the council for approval.

Interim City Manager and new board member John Darrington asked if Durfey and Pira were required to recuse themselves. Restucci explained that, as an advisory board, the members are unlikely to fall afoul of the conflict of interest laws. However, both Durfey and Pira abstained from the discussion of the lease template and from the vote.

The board also approved sending two lease contracts between Durfey and the city to the council to be approved, again with Pira and Durfey abstaining.

In other business, members of the board were presented with drafts of airport covenants and hazardous materials rules and asked to read and make comments on them for the next meeting.

The board also heard an update on the status of the AWOS weather station being installed at the airport and an update of the Young Eagles event planned during Sunshine Days in September.

The board next plans to meet on Tuesday, May 21.

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