Former Camas councilwoman questions airport funding motives

Liz Pike asks if deal has been made with landowners

Former Camas City Councilwoman Liz Pike asked Port of Camas-Washougal commissioners if they had made a deal with landowners to the west of Grove Field Airport — for campaign contributions.

Her question was asked during the July 5 port commission meeting, when a variety of opinions were expressed regarding the potential application for $10 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to pay for improvements at Grove Field.

Correcting the airport’s design standard deficiencies would involve widening the runway to 60 feet, lengthening the runway to 3,070 feet, clearing obstructions within the airport’s runway safety area and shifting the runway to meet center line/taxiway separation standards. Relocating Delp Road could involve digging a tunnel.

Regarding his votes, commissioner Mark Lampton said, “they’re not for sale.”

During the commissioner reports toward the end of the meeting, Bill Ward acknowledged the “great input” received that day from the public and the “finding of no significance” issued by the FAA.

The “FONSI” document found the airport project would have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment.

Ward said the commission would “base decisions on what is best for the community” and minimize potential risks to the port.

He said he is fully committed to operations of the airport.

“Contrary to some opinions, my vote is not for sale either,” Ward added.

When reached by phone yesterday, port commissioner Bill Macrae-Smith said he did not expect Pike’s question.

“I was surprised she would say that during the meeting,” he said. “She has said similar things. I did not feel it was appropriate and did not dignify a response. I did not say anything.”

Pike said yesterday she researched who had contributed money to the campaigns of Lampton and Macrae-Smith two years ago.

“An overwhelmingly large percentage of their campaign contributions came from family members of a large tract of land located directly west of the airport who are on record of being against any improvements to Grove Field,” she said. “To date, all three port commissioners have provided no cogent argument to justify halting this safety improvement project. Therefore, this leads myself and others to speculate on the motivations of our port commissioners.”

Pike was referring to Lynn Johnston and his relatives. Johnston is the owner of the Johnston Dairy.

Macrae-Smith confirmed his campaign did receive contributions from the Johnston family.

“It’s a matter of public record,” he said. “That’s all reported to the Public Disclosure Commission. There is nothing illegal about what we did.

“It was on the PDC web page,” Macrae-Smith added. “There is nothing to hide.”

In 2009, Pike’s firm, Pike Advertising Agency, was hired by then-incumbent port commissioner Alan Hargrave to produce newspaper ads and a postcard mailer for his re-election campaign.

Hargrave’s opponent was Macrae-Smith.

In December 2005, Lynn Johnston wrote a letter regarding the potential plans for airport expansion.

“I am hopeful that the port will do the right thing for our community by not accepting federal money and stopping the Airport Layout Plan now,” he wrote. “The current ALP requires relocating Delp Road to accommodate a longer runway, causing an unnecessary disruption to our community.

Johnston referred to the potential easement of 6 acres of his land for the purpose of a Runway Protection Zone.

“It is important for you to understand that I will not voluntarily cooperate with a plan for airport expansion that requires me to give up property rights,” he wrote. “In fact, simply pursuing completion of the current ALP will be an indication to me that you are willing to disregard individual’s property rights.

“If you continue with this plan, my only recourse will be to seek to protect my property to the greatest extent the law allows,” Johnston added. “Please stop the Airport Layout Plan now.”

If money from the FAA is accepted, the port would guarantee that Grove Field will remain an airport for at least 20 years. The application and subsequent approval for state and federal funding would pay for 97.5 percent of the costs.

The port commission is expected to decide whether to pursue FAA funding during its next meeting Tuesday, July 19, at 5 p.m., in the port office meeting room, 24 S. “A” St., Washougal. For more information, call the port office at 835-2196 or visit www.portcw.com.

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