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Council approves lease for airport business

Residents discuss burning debris

After several months of sorting through possible legal issues, the Burns City Council voted to approve the ground lease at the Burns Municipal Airport for Isaac Pierce of Williams Aircraft Painting and Auto Body.

Pierce has been in the process of purchasing the business from Darrell Williams, but because it is not classified as a full-time aeronautical business, the city had to contact the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and get its approval. The FAA said the business is fine as long as the city is charging it fair market value for the lease.

At the council meeting on April 13, Williams provided the council with lease rates from other airports to help the city arrive at a fair market value. Williams said his current contract calls for him to pay 10 cents a square foot, and it would increase to 14 cents a square foot when it came up for renewal in 2018.

City Manager Dauna Wensenk said she visited with Daniel Stewart of the FAA on April 18, and he reiterated that the city is required to charge “fair market value” for non-aeronautical users of airport property, and suggested that fair market value “can be determined by reference to negotiated fees charged for similar uses of the airport by appraisal of comparable properties.”

Wensenk said she checked around with other comparable airports and found varying fees.

Wensenk said Williams’ contract has him paying for 24,500 square feet of space at 10 cents a square foot, or $2,450 a year. She looked at the leased property and noticed that he is paying for approximately 5,800 square feet that is not used. She then subtracted the unused land from the new lease rate of 14 cents a square foot, and came up with a lease rate of $3,430 a year, or $285.83 a month.

Wensenk then figured a lease rate of 19 cents a square foot, and it amounted to $3,553 a year, or $296.08 a month, an increase of $10.25 a month more than the 14 cents a square foot.

Councilor Jerry Woodfin asked where the 19 cents a square foot proposal came from?

“Our last meeting, we were talking about 14 cents, and now it’s at 19 cents. I’m bothered by that,” he said. “When did all that come about? Where was the discussion? I don’t feel like there was a discussion on it.”

Wensenk said the 14 cents a square foot lease rate was established by a resolution passed in 2011, and as leases came due, they were negotiated at that rate.

Mayor Craig LaFollette explained the 14 cents was the aeronautical business rate, and because the FAA requires them to set a non-aeronautical rate, they had to figure that out.

“We want to be fair,” LaFollette said.

He said the new rate was derived from the research of lease rates from Williams and Wensenk, and the fact that Williams was paying for land he wasn’t using.

Wensenk added that it was recommended to her to look at the rate for storage buildings in the area, and use that figure to help come up with a fair market value. The storage unit rate is 30 cents a square foot, so she came up with 20 cents a square foot, and then lowered it to 19 cents.

Councilor Dan Hoke suggested a rate of 16 cents a square foot for the new lease.

Williams said he and Pierce felt they were being held hostage by the city for the past several months, and if the council wants to raise it 19 cents a square foot, they would agree.

“For $10 a month, it’s OK. We just want to move on,” Williams said.

LaFollette said he was sorry they felt that way, and that was never the city’s intent. He added that the city was trying to stay in compliance with the FAA, and get the deal done in a responsible and timely fashion.

Councilor Terri Presley asked how an extra $10 a month is a hindrance to the business?

In response, Woodfin asked what’s the gain?

After more discussion, the council voted to change the proposed resolution establishing the lease rate for non-aeronautical use to 16 cents a square foot, down from 19 cents a square foot.

The council then approved the resolution.


During the public comment portion of the meeting, Jeannette Gill of Riverside Drive told the council that a neighbor’s house had burned down recently, and the fire chief told the owners they could continue to burn what was left.

Gill said their house filled with smoke from the burning, and they had to move out to a trailer at their son’s residence. She added that the Department of Environmental Quality was coming in to check for hazardous materials.

Terri Williams, who also lives on Riverside Drive, said after the house had burned, it was knocked down, and the owners continued to burn the debris.

“We’ve been sick for almost two weeks from the smoke,” Williams said. “The chief allowed the fire to keep burning. Why can he do that? He (the owner) doesn’t have a permit, and we’re ticked. Our house is filthy, and we want something done.”

LaFollette said they are addressing the complaints and that the city manager contacted the fire chief about the matter. He said Hines Fire Chief Bob Spence would be taking a look at the situation and report back to the city manager.


In other business:

• in her city manager’s report, Wensenk reported construction on the taxiway at the airport should be starting soon, following a pre-construction meeting.

She said May 21 has been set for the free yard debris day and asked for volunteers to help out, and that the Burns Lions Club will be having their fly-in breakfast June 4 at the airport.

She added that Mark Owens donated 100 canisters to the city to help control the sage rat population in the cemetery;

• the council approved a $100 donation to the Burns High School senior class for their all-night party following graduation;

• Wensenk said the city received one bid for the North Cedar water project in the amount of $106,926.25 from Palmer Excavation. The council voted to award the bid to Palmer Excavation.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, at city hall.

Randy Parks

Randy was born in Iowa, and spent most of his life growing up in the Hawkeye State. After a few years in college, he settled in Idaho for a decade, skiing, golfing, and working at Sun Valley Resort. He married in 1985, completed broadcast school, and moved to Harney County in 1989 to work for KZZR. After 16 years of on-air work, he left the radio station and went to work for the Burns Times-Herald.

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