omak airport

 

Airplanes sit at the Omak Airport, with the terminal and fueling facility in the background.

 

OMAK – Plenty of baby boomer pilots are looking for a place to retire and are interested in Omak because of its airport.

Many pilots at a recent statewide Washington Pilots Association convention inquired about hangar possibilities at the Omak Municipal Airport, Lee Orr of the group’s Okanogan/Ferry Chapter told the city council April 15.

“We got a lot of questions from baby boomers who want to retire. They’re interested in fuel, hangar sites or just a $200 hamburger,” he said, alluding to the cost of flying to Omak from a western Washington location.

The city gives the pilots group money from its hotel-motel tax fund each year to promote the area. Orr said he wanted city officials to know how the group spent the money.

The February state convention marked the 13th time the local group has had a booth at the Puyallup event, he said. The group’s booth features information about the two counties and their airports, with emphasis on those cities that support the group financially.

“We’re known as the apple booth,” he said, noting the group handed out four boxes of size 100 apples and 350 packages of sliced apples from John Butler’s American Produce Express in Okanogan.

As one of the few non-commercial booths, it gets a lot of traffic from the 10,000-12,000 people who come through the show because “we don’t intimidate them” in a financial sense because the group isn’t selling anything, he said. The conference also offers a variety of aviation-related seminars.

Although a lot of people have no idea where Okanogan County is, a lot of people ask about hangar space and costs, Orr said.

Omak has the largest airport in the county, other than the Methow Valley State Airport between Twisp and Winthrop, and is one of two municipal airports – with Okanogan – that sell aviation fuel on a card lock system, Orr said. That makes them more attractive to traveling pilots than others.

“I’ve talked to scads of people planning to retire. They’re paying $1,000 or more for hangar space per month,” he said. “They’re looking for some place (cheaper) to go.”

Those who do relocate “bring Seattle money and they don’t need a job,” he added.

Omak does not own hangars in which space can be leased, but does lease land to pilots wanting to erect their own hangars, said City Administrator Todd McDaniel after the meeting.

Ground at the airport is leased at 10 cents per square foot per year, or $20 per month minimum. Leases started with a 25-year term, although many have been renewed or have new owners, he said.

“I think every hangar we have is a different size,” he said. “A hangar large enough for one plane would be the minimum $240 per year.”

Councilman Barry Freel asked the number of people who ask about hangar space, but Orr said he didn’t have any figures.

During the meeting, McDaniel said additional hangar sites are “still in the works,” since expanded infrastructure needs to be addressed at the airport.

Okanogan owns two hangars at its Okanogan Legion Airport. Monthly rentals are $150 per month for a large bay in the wood hanger and $60 per month for a single bay, and $100 per month in the block hangar. Ground lease for a private hangar is 8 cents per square foot per hear, plus any leasehold tax.

Orr also asked the council for printed materials about the airport.

In other business, the Omak council:

-Heard Mayor Cindy Gagne declare Stand Against Racism Month in Omak. An observance will begin at 9:50 a.m. April 24 at Wenatchee Valley College at Omak.

-Authorized purchase of two radar signs, which will be placed on Ross Canyon and Robinson Canyon roads. The signs will display the speed of vehicles entering the city limits and include the posted speed limit.

The signs, from Traffic Safety Supply, Portland, Ore., will cost $8,137.43, which is $137.43 more than budgeted.

-Approved a lease agreement with Ricoh USA Inc., Malvern, Penn., for a copy machine for the police department. Chief Jeff Koplin said he had hoped the department’s 2014 copier would last through 2019, but it won’t.

-Authorized closure of city accounts at Wells Fargo Bank. The city switched to Washington Federal.

-Learned the council public safety committee is still working on a draft ordinance for an alcohol impact study.

-Learned a law enforcement appreciation event was scheduled for April 19. Officer James Murray was to be honored for enforcement of driving under the influence and other traffic laws.

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