Susan Amort takes reins of Chamber
Photo by Tim Hirsch
The debate over private or public management of the Pacific City State Airport continued at a Pacific City-Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce meeting on Jan. 2.
Public-private debate over airport continues
By TIM HIRSCH
of the Sun
Public or private? That was the central question during a discussion on the future of the Pacific City State Airport held during the Pacific City-Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting on Jan. 2.
A panel featuring members of the Oregon Department of Aviation, together with a representative of the pilot community, led the discussion on how — and by whom — the airport will be managed in the future. ODA staff present included Mitch Swecker, director of ODA, Matt Moss, airport manager for ODA and John Wilson, operation specialist for ODA. Representing the pilot community was part-time Pacific City resident Robyn Holdman, of Sisters, whose husband regularly flies into the airport.
In his opening remarks, Swecker assured meeting attendees that first and foremost that ODA has no intention of closing the airport, but, rather is looking for a safer way to run it.
“What we’re really interested in is keeping the airport viable and making it safer,” he said. “A private citizen may have more capability to do (that) than we do.”
Moss said of primary concern is the proximity of buildings to the airport. It is because of this, he said, that the PCSA doesn’t meet minimum standards established by the state.
“It’s still a safe airport to operate at,” he added. “However, you do have to have a lot more skill and we encourage pilots not to use it (for) training. As Mitch would say, it’s a varsity level airport. You need to have a lot more skill (to land here).”
He said another issue is winter storms and the rainfall they bring.
“That airport is often underwater (and) when we have those storm surges, we have a lot of driftwood that comes up on the runway.”
Noting that some logs have weighed as much as 400 pounds, he said that it’s not just a matter of one guy loading up a pickup truck, but an effort that involves cutting up the large logs before hauling away.
With those issues at the forefront, Moss said that ODA had open ears when part-time Pacific City resident Kurt Bruun approached the department following a 2012 community meeting discussing the continued viability of the airport.
“It’s important for me to be able to fly here,” Bruun said. “I never want to see an airport close. I’m a passionate aviator. That’s why I approached (ODA).”
Though she recognized some of the challenges of the airport, Holdman said she took issue with a couple of points. First, she expressed her disappointment with what she saw as a lack of transparency earlier in the decision-making process.
“My concern is that this hasn’t been a very transparent process,” she said. “This past year, there have been closed-door executive sessions to discuss the future of this airport. It was discouraging (as) Mitch, in 2012, told us as they were thinking about closing that they would not move forward and proceed without gathering public input. I tend to be a person who believes in involving the community at the start, in showing that respect.”
She also challenged the assertion that the airport is not suitable for pilot training.
“Where we have our house, we see every plane that comes in here,” Holdman said. “At least 50 percent of (the planes) have two people sitting in them that land and then take off. This is a very important airport for training and those are individuals, pilot and instructor, who are learning how to land on a short airstrip.”
Another one of her contentions was the issue of who is best qualified to run the airport.
“I thought that (the ODA was) the experts on how to make an airport safe, just like the people from ODOT are the experts on how to run a safe public road,” she said.
She also voiced concerns over what would happen should Bruun suddenly pass away and his family not wish to continue operating the airport. To address that issue, both ODA officials and Bruun said the idea would be to have language in the agreement that would require that should the family no longer want to run the airport, that the land would revert back to the ODA so they could resume ownership and management of the airport.
A Group Effort?
One idea put forth by Holdman was to establish a consortium that, together with ODA and other government bodies, could jointly take responsibility for the airport. She said that while she appreciates the offer of Bruun to take responsibility for the airport she had concerns over the loss of control she believes would result under private ownership.
“I really want to thank Kurt Bruun because I think it was pretty noble stepping forward saying he would buy this airport to keep it open, but what I’d like to think about is how we can all (work) together and keep it open,” she said. “Why can’t it still be run by the State of Oregon? Why can’t the county take more role in maintenance? Why can’t the Port of Tillamook step forward and be the official manager, and they be the one to apply for TLT funds and aviation funds? Why can’t the Tillamook Pilot’s Association be stakeholders and be the ones out there with their sleeves turned up and pulling out some debris after the storms? And why can’t we form a group called Friends of Pacific City Airport where all of us as stakeholders could take some responsibility off (ODA)? They do have a lot of airports, and we can’t blame them for being stretched thin.”
Bruun, who operates other private landing strips in the state, said he has concerns with the group approach.
“It either needs to stay with the ODA, I think, or it needs to go to one entity or individual because decisions need to be made like it needs to be restriped or it needs to be fog coated or the runway needs to be paved,” he said. “Someone needs to have the funds and the availability to actively do it when it needs to be done. I think a consortium would be tough. I think a private entity could work well.
“I’m not doing this for the money,” he added. “It’s going to cost (more than $20,000 to $30,000) a year just to keep it open. I’m willing to pay that because I care about it.”
With an eye on a possible transfer or sale, ODA has already had an appraiser take a look at the property, which came back at $10. Swecker said the appraisal came back “unusually low” because of the frequent flooding as well as the fact that, because of the deed restrictions in place, it can only be used for an airport.
“When the appraiser came out to the airport, (it) was under water, and the waterline went up to our property limits,” Moss said. “It is a revenue negative airport. We don’t make any money and it costs us money to operate. That is something that has to be kept in mind if someone is going to take the airport over. They have to realize that this is not a money-making venture. It is because they’re passionate about aviation, and they want to see the Pacific City Airport continue in its current form or in an improved form that potentially a private entity would be able to do.”
One such possible improvement would be by purchasing available surroundings — something that ODA officials said private citizens can more readily do — and has the potential to increase safety at the landing strip.
The issue of the airport will be taken up again during a listening session hosted by Tillamook County Commissioners, together with Rep. David Gomberg (D-Otis) and Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay) on Monday, Jan. 8, starting at 5 p.m., at Kiawanda Community Center, 34600 Cape Kiwanda Dr., Pacific City.
Photo by Tim Hirsch
SUSAN AMORT is bringing her varied community service experience to her new role as president of the Pacific City-Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Susan Amort takes reins
of Chamber of Commerce
By TIM HIRSCH
of the Sun
The Pacific City-Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce has a new leader at the helm. Susan Amort began her first year as president of the Chamber on Jan. 1, and is eager to put her experience and enthusiasm to use for the chamber.
Amort brings both the business sense that her career in real estate, new construction and land development has taught her as well as a community-minded focus honed by her participation in several organizations.
She moved to Neskowin in 2011, when she spearheaded the opening of a Pacific City branch of Windermere Real Estate. And it didn’t take long for her to showcase her willingness to do her part. She’s served on the Neskowin Community Association for the last four years, the Neskowin Beach Golf Course Board for the last two, the Tillamook County Transient Lodging Tax Tourism Promotion Advisory Committee for the last two years, and was voted to be on the board of the Neskowin Regional Sanitary Authority in 2016.
Amort has been involved in new construction and land development since 1991. She joined Windermere in 2004 as a realtor.
And as a board member of the Chamber, she, along with fellow Windermere realtor Jacie Voegeli, organized the annual auction for a number of years. She also brings with her several years of experience from the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce.
It’s a history of experience that she hopes will pay dividends as she leads the Chamber in 2018.
“My history of community interests in and around Neskowin and involvement with the Chamber gives me good groundwork to try and further the Chamber,” she said.
Amort said that amongst her goals for the coming year is to meet with members of the business community.
“I think it’s important that we reach out to all the businesses,” she said. “One of the goals of 2018 is to increase membership and reach of the Chamber into all our small unincorporated areas. The plan over the next three months is to meet with each and every business that partakes as a member and those that have chosen not to and see how the Chamber can help to improve businesses throughout the community.”
Another one of her hopes it to leverage the Transient Lodging Tax grant the Chamber was previously awarded to improve its web site.
“We’re actively looking for a webmaster to improve it so it’s an advantage and reason to be a member of the Chamber,” she said.
Another change for 2018 is the Chamber’s relocation of its monthly meetings to the Faye Jensen Hall of the Kiawanda Community Center. As well, Amort said the Chamber has booked the Center to host this year’s awards banquet, which will enable the group to open the event to more attendees.
“We have greatly appreciated the years of hospitality that the Pelican Pub gave us and look forward to many years with the Kiawanda Community Center,” she said.
Also on Amort’s wish list for 2018 will be the addition of a golfing tournament at Neskowin Beach Golf Course for which date and other specifics are still being worked on.
Amort can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 503-312-4622. For more information on the Pacific City-Nestucca Valley Chamber of Commerce, visit pcnvchamber.org.