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New flight services building longtime dream of aviators


   It's long been a dream for local aviators, but next year may be the year when a new general aviation building becomes a reality at the Madras-Jefferson County Airport.
   Last week, Sens. Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith announced that Madras will receive $300,000 from the 2005 federal omnibus spending bill for a flight services building. By combining that with the $200,000 the city has received this year from the sale of property at the airport-industrial site, the city has enough money to go ahead with the project.
   At the last meeting of the Madras City Council on Nov. 16, councilors approved a contract with Steele Associates Architects of Bend to create the plan for the building, allowing expenditure of up to $9,000.
   "They will do an analysis to see the likely pattern of use in the building, and interview a bunch of people, and come back and say the building needs to be X number of square feet," City Administrator Mike Morgan explained.
   Preliminary estimates have ranged from 2,500 to 4,000 square feet.
   The current facility, about 600 square feet, was built in the early 1950s out of cinder block with one large room plus restroom facilities.
   "It's a small pumy block building that hasn't met the city's needs in years," said Mayor Rick Allen. "The next one's going to last. We need to make sure it meets our needs for the next few decades."
   The new facility will have a conference room/classroom, one or two offices, a passenger and pilot lounge, restrooms, and some type of snack bar with vending machines.
   "I'll actually have an office," said Don Mobley, airport manager since 1987. Mobley shares an office with mechanics Rob and Ron Berg, in a hangar about 150 feet from the current facility.
   Mobley also runs Mobley Aviation, providing flight training and aircraft rental. "It will be great to have a place to do check rides," he said, explaining that oral evaluations take about two and one-half hours. "It will be nice not to have interruptions."
   Building a new facility has been a goal for the city for many years. "It's something the airport has needed and it's finally coming to pass," said Mobley. "It goes along with the development of the airport and industrial area."
   Mobley pointed out that the airport is the first place that many people see when they fly into a community. "If they see we care about our airport, it's a nice first impression. It's nicer for day-to-day use, as well as being impressive for people flying in to check out the community -- especially for business."
   There are about 10,000 takeoffs and landings at the airport each year, according to Mobley. The main runway, which is 5,100 feet long and 75 feet wide, can accommodate a small jet airliner, such as a Boeing 737, or a corporate jet. The crosswind runway is 3,000 feet long, and 50 feet wide.
   "We just did a grind and overlay of the taxiway," Mobley said, "and we're going to do a ramp expansion for aircraft parking."
   The city owns about 2,100 acres at the airport, but only about 10 acres are used for aviation purposes. During World War II, the airport property was used as a training facility for pilots. After the war, the airport was turned over to the city and county, although the Federal Aviation Administration still requires all money taken in from the sale or lease of property at the site to go into the airport fund for specific airport improvements. In March, the city learned that it can use money from that fund for the flight services building.
   The city also receives about $150,000 per year in Airport Improvement Plan funds from the federal government. In March, the city learned that some of that money can also be used for the aviation building.
   Construction of the new flight services building, which will likely be built at the end of Cherry Lane, could begin next fall.
   "We will have a report (from Steele Associates) in February," said Morgan. "After the February final report, the Airport Commission will look at the plans and make a recommendation to the City Council."
   Once the final drawings are adopted, the city will enter into a second contract for construction drawings, and then go out to bid on the project, Morgan said.
   "I don't think we'll see construction before October (2005)," he said. "We're just at the starting gate in this one."