What’s been happening at the Port of Orcas?

  • Wed May 6th, 2020 1:30am
  • News

by Diane Craig

Staff reporter

The Orcas Port Authority has been without an airport manager since the beginning of 2020. This month they will start interviewing candidates for the position.

It was a long road to get here.

Last November, islanders elected four commissioners to the five-member Port of Orcas commission. In December, the new commissioners were sworn in: Mia Kartinger, Bea vonTobel, Pierrette Guimond and Michael Triplett; (the fifth member, Steve Hopkins, was not up for re-election.). At the January, 2020 meeting Interim Airport Manager Dwight Guss resigned and Tony Simpson, the airport’s prior manager, was contracted as a consultant to tend to airport administrative responsibilities until a new manager could be hired.

In March, the commission authorized a search to fill the airport manager’s position. At the April 20 meeting, Kartinger noted that the authority had received 26 applications; that each commissioner had reviewed the applications, indicating their top five choices; and those choices were tabulated to create a slate of five for formal consideration. Currently, those five are in the process of being vetted with interviews anticipated to commence in May.

Besides a search for a new airport manager, over the past few months the Port Authority has:

– Received $1 million from the federal government, a sum based on the 10,000 enplanements – or airplane boardings – the airport recorded in 2018. Commissioners anticipate the money will go toward the general costs of running the property saving the local population from any financial burden;

– Received $1.4 million from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation through the CARES Act which generated some discussion about how the money might be used;

– Responded to the request by the Orcas Island’s task force addressing the needs of the island’s homeless population during the COVID19 health crisis to provide laundry and shower facilities, free from contamination pending FAA approval for such an activity;

– Discussed the status of various leases with airport tenants and contracts with janitorial and landscaping bids;

– Reviewed the airport’s parking fees structure suggesting a potential increase for both long- and short-term parking;

– Received a presentation by OPALCO on the possibility of installing electric car charging stations at the airport;

– Met with the local representative to the FAA to clarify whether wording could be changed in the airport’s Master Plan since its approval last year. Sections addressing the potential for expanding the airport’s square footage had proved stressful for homeowners whose land was marked for potential purchase by the airport. Commissioners were informed that the FAA had no problem with adjusting the plan’s wording since the Port Authority has no plans to take the property through eminent domain.

“The FAA wants a master plan to reflect reality,” Kartinger said. ”We’re not going to take land away from islanders. The wording needed to change.”

Since the outbreak of COVID19, Port Authority meetings have been held using the popular online platform Zoom. The next meeting is scheduled for May 14 at 5 p.m. Those interested in attending should check the authority’s website portoforcas.com for more information.