Five gold shovels thrust into the dirt last Friday signaled the start of a vital project to renew the aging runway at Sisters Eagle Airport. Airport owner Benny Benson of Energyneering Solutions Inc. and Airport Manager Hobbs Magaret led the ground-breaking ceremony as heavy equipment and mounds of pale brown rock waited in the distance.
Assisted by Julie Benson, County Commissioner Alan Unger and City Councilor Wendy Holzman, it was a bold statement of confidence to the advancing development of Sisters transportation hub and the sheer effectiveness of private/public partnerships.
“Congratulations, I think this is going to look great,” said Unger. “This is the future of Sisters and to get people to come here and see how easy it can be to travel here and live where they want to live and work. An improved airport attracts people to Sisters.”
Back in November of 2011, Benson and Magaret began the long process of acquiring the ConnectOregon IV grant to replace the airport’s deteriorating runway. Enduring over eight months of public lobbying, presentations and even a few prayers, they persevered and hustled to push the grant through. With gratitude and thanks to the City of Sisters and Commissioner Unger, the local airport was finally awarded the grant last year.
The airport’s existing runway is 3,500 feet long and 30 feet wide and will be expanded to 60 feet wide, elevating it to current FAA standards with a premium resurfacing.
Benny Benson is thrilled with the beginning of construction and thankful to see the community support his extended vision.
“We’re also changing some of the sloping, initiating a new hanger project in August pending our annexation approval with the city and adding a self-service aviation fueling station,” he said. “That’s something that was not previously available here in Sisters.”
“The key to all this is to have an infrastructure that will last so we’re not skimping on the base. As you can see we’ve already started rolling the equipment out,” said Magaret, gesturing to bulldozers and graders parked on the tarmac. “That was this past Monday and next week we’ll start grinding up the pavement. The whole project should take about 2 ½ months. Once it’s done we’ll also be able to accommodate up to 10 aircraft when the first set of hangers are installed.”
80 percent of the entire $750,000 runway project is funded by ODOT with the remaining portion funded privately. It was seeded by a Lottery-backed bond for the ConnectOregon program, supported by the State of Oregon and funded by the legislature to look at non-highway infrastructure improvements that promote economic development and jobs.
“This is a local project so we’re using local contractors like Robinson & Owen,” added Benson. “We’re hoping to move pretty quickly and probably looking at a Memorial Day finish with a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony sometime in the middle of June.”
www.sistersairport.com or 541-719-0602.