Prineville Airport moving toward autonomy

The status of the Prineville-Crook County Airport is "healthy" and almost at the point of being self-sustaining.
   That was part of the report presented to both the County Court and Prineville City Council recently. Dean Cooper, a member of the Airport Commission, made the reports, saying that ground leases of airport property are up, fuel sales have increased and even the number of take-offs and landings at the facility is higher than ever. The airport has been averaging 12,000 take-offs and landings per year, Cooper said, "that averages 35 per day," he added.
   In the past year, effort has increased to address deferred maintenance with one runway being chip sealed, bringing both runways back into usable condition. Replacing landing lights and upgrading the equipment for pilots to be able to make instrument landings have also been completed.
   "We now have two instrument approaches," Cooper explained. "Other than the Redmond airport, we offer more instrument approaches than any other airport in central Oregon."
   Income at the airport is also up, and with increased fuel sales and ground leases, the outlook for the coming year should be even better. Ground leases, Cooper reported, bring in about $25,000 a year now and the rates have recently been increased about 20 percent to be more in line with competition.
   The financial outlook for the airport will improve greatly, Cooper advised both city and county officials, with development of the platted industrial park near the airport entrance. Cooper said that the park will offer 24 sites and will be ready for tenants once a frontage road offering access is developed. Already, he added, the commission has had four requests for leases in that area.
   The good news for the next few years is approval of a $150,000 grant for upgrading the facility. That grant could be renewed each year for four years, but is only awarded one year at a time. Among the improvements on the list is replacement of the signal beacon, raising its height, completion of the Airport Layout Plan.
   With that grant, and the fact that the Bend airport is about built out and Redmond's facility discouraging general aviation aircraft, the future of the local airport looks better all the time.
   For all of the good news, however, when County Judge Scott Cooper asked about the county's annual $10,000 budgeted to the airport, he was told that funding was still necessary.
   "We still need the $10,000 from the city and county," Commissioner Cooper said, "for matching funds to enable us to make application for federal and state grants."
   There is potentially up to $5 million in grant funds coming in the next few years. "But it is possible," Cooper quickly added, "that we can become self-sustaining once the airport industrial park is developed."
   Each year, by the intergovernmental agreement under which the airport is operated, both the city and county each budget $10,000 for that mutually owned facility.