Thursday, September 21, 2017
Welcome to the Creswell Airport.
Eleven Years, Really?
In an October 2016 article in the Creswell Chronicle, Mayor Stram was quoted as saying, "The goal is for the Creswell Airport to be recognized as the best choice for general aviation in the State of Oregon by the year 2027." We can only hope that was a typo. Eleven years for something that could be accomplished in one to two years?
How many reports or surveys must the city pay for to see where the problems are? First and foremost, there is an ongoing conflict of interest with the airport manager and her husband having a maintenance business on the airport. It's discouraging, to say the least, for those wanting to come here and compete with her husband.
Then of course there is the way being used for those who would like to come to the Creswell Airport and build a hangar and go into business. When you build your hangar, you must "donate" it to the city. In turn, you get a twenty year lease, with two ten year options. Why would anyone want to build an expensive hangar and put it in danger of being taken if you have a bit of bad luck and miss your land lease payments? It's no secret in the aviation community, that’s exactly what happened to Dave Wright who placed his dream of going into the skydiving business with the City of Creswell and built a beautiful $160,000 hangar. For reasons that are still in question, skydiving was stopped and put the skydivers out of business on the airport. Eugene Skydivers found a farmer's field to land on, but Dave Wright was not that lucky. Owing, a little over $1,500, a previous city administration canceled his lease and confiscated his hangar. The city is now renting out that hangar and keeping all the proceeds. While the new city administration could re-instate the lease to the Wright family, they don't seem willing to do so.
There is a lot more to this story, but the bottom line is this. Dave lost his life's savings that was in the hangar, and is no longer living, which is related to the taking of his hangar.
There is no question, the Creswell Airport could be one of the finest general aviation airports in Oregon. That of course depends on how it's managed. There is talk of installing a $500,000 septic system thinking that will attract new business. Aside from having to "donate" your hangar, there are other limitations with the airport. A business would be limited to the type of aircraft due to the 3,000 foot runway.
If this airport would work on being a true general aviation airport and not expect large businesses to come here, that would be a good start. It needs to be the kind of airport where pilots would like to fly to and be with other pilots who enjoy each others company.
A nice building with bathrooms, shower and an area for a refrigerator would be a real plus. A septic system for this bathroom would cost a great deal less than the $500,000 one they are talking about. This bathroom could be used by airport tenets as well. There could also be a BBQ area with tables close by. There could be a nice grass area for planes to park, tie-down and allow pilots to "sleep under their wings". Of course, they could also stay at the local motels and eat at the local restaurants.
Another area of interest could be the pilot golfer groups that like to fly to different golf courses. At one time, there were plans to have a cart path to the Emerald Valley Golf course. That should be considered again. The pilots could park and load their clubs on a cart and be on their way.
These ideas and improvements would take a lot less than eleven years to accomplish. It's practical and realistic considering our 3,000 foot runway, and the Eugene Airport being more desirable for larger businesses.
Yes, with some changes, the Creswell Airport could be one of the premium airports in Oregon.
For example, Dave Wright spent $160,000 to build a hangar to go into the skydiving business, which ultimately, he and Eugene Skydivers were no longer, (after 12 years) allowed to land on the airport. As some of you know, the City of Creswell spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending a lawsuit by Eugene Skydivers after they were no longer allowed to land on the airport. Fortunately, Eugene Skydivers found a farmer's field to land on to stay in business, but Dave Wright was not so lucky. Dave was continually behind in his rent and other fees, prompting the previous City administration to revoke his lease. In essence, taking his investment and his dream of having a skydiving business. Unfortunately, Dave passed away shortly after.
The problem? Even though Dave Wright owed the City a reported $5,800 in lease fees, the City kept the remaining value of his lease, approximately $154,000. His widow and children received nothing. The City is now renting the hangar Dave built and keeping all the income.
This mayor and council have the legal right to reinstate the hangar lease to Dave's widow and children. It's no secret what happened to Dave Wright, and it doesn't bode well for the Creswell Airport's image. We respectfully ask that our mayor and councilors do the right thing and make this right. It would be a great start to a new image and a more unified airport community.
In talking with a number of religious men about the moral aspects of this issue, they all said it would be the right thing to do, to give the widow the remainder of the lease. One Minister quoted James 4:17 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
There would be a great deal of pride in a Mayor and council willing to give up the rent money from a hangar that was gained in a questionable manner. What a warm story that would make. Let's wish them well.
You could view a documentary that was made regarding the Wright hangar situation. On YouTube, Go to "Making It Wright".
We should mention, after some seven or eight years and thousands of dollars in legal fees for the city and Eugene Skydivers, Eugene Skydivers are landing back on the airport.
Creswell Airport is probably one of the finest airports in the Sate of Oregon and has great potential. At present, anyone thinking of doing business on this airport, might want to give it a great deal more thought.
When and if things change, we will proudly promote this airport.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." -Dale Carnegie
A report says the risk posed by allowing skydiving at the city's airport is manageable
By Karen McCowan CRESWELL - A new consultant's report questions the city's position that skydiving poses unacceptable risks at Creswell Airport. It also urges the City Council to set clearer airport policies and hold the city administrator and airport manager accountable for improving relationships with unhappy airport users.
Council members received copies of the report last week from Jim Johnson, a former acting Creswell city administrator. They hired Johnson to advise them on airport issues, including tensions between airport manager Shelley Humble and some airport users, including Eugene Skydivers and Wright Brothers Skydiving.
The rival companies in 2006 lost their long-standing right to land customers in a "drop zone" on Hobby Field east of the runway and on nearby state-owned land. Both city and state officials cited liability concerns following complaints by some pilots that the skydiving operations posed a safety hazard at the airfield.
Bringing back skydiving would increase risks to general aviation at Hobby Field, consultant Johnson acknowledged in his report to the council. But he called such risks "manageable" if the city works with skydiving operators to craft a safety plan and the operators abide by its terms. Eugene Skydivers owner Urban Moore and Wright Brothers owner David Wright said they were pleased with Johnson's recommendation that the city revisit the skydiving issue, but had only guarded hopes that things will change.
"We have asked the city three other times since we've been off the airport to negotiate with us or at least to open up the communication lines so we can develop some kind of process," said Moore. He won county permission in 2007 to land skydivers on a farmer's field several miles north of the airport, but the arrangement increases both overhead costs and his turnaround time between jumps. "I'm going to be out of business shortly," Moore said. "This has knocked my business down by better than 60 percent."
Wright said the city's action has already "pretty well destroyed" his 18-year business at the airfield. He stopped scheduling jumps last summer after the county denied his application to drop skydivers on a farmer's field just off the airport. The city urged the county to deny his proposal, again citing safety concerns.
Wright expressed hope that Johnson's report might end a Catch-22 situation in which city officials say they cannot sign a new safety agreement with the skydiving companies because of Federal Aviation Administration safety concerns, while the FAA based its safety concerns on the lack of a signed safety agreement.
In his report, Johnson also calls on the city administrator to draft "measurable goals" for Humble that include "rebuilding and managing in a positive manner" relationships with users who've long complained she plays favorites. The administrator should "personally assist" Humble and closely monitor her progress, Johnson said, adding: "If relationships do not improve, then the administrator should use the powers of his office to make appropriate changes."
Johnson also urged the city to draw up a contract that delineates Humble's dealings with her husband, who runs a private aviation business on the airport, citing "the appearance of a conflict of interest." "The agreement would ensure that no real conflict arises," wrote Johnson. An independent fact-finder hired by the city in 2006 found no evidence of Humble using her city office to benefit her husband's business. She has managed the airport since Creswell purchased it from private owners in 2000. Humble declined comment, saying acting city administrator Jamon Kent had advised her to wait until the council takes up the report, which it is scheduled to discuss March 10.
At least one councilor, David Case, plans to respond to the report at tonight's council meeting. The report also includes a summary of a Jan. 22 town hall meeting on airport issues that drew 60 people. Of 24 people who testified, a majority seemed to support Humble, Johnson said, but others were sharply critical of her leadership style.