Airport delays leave planes in the rain

By: Erin Gallup-Main
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Journal Staff Writer Auburn attorney Evan Wolfe has been waiting for a half a decade to nest his 1957 Navy airplane in a hangar at the Auburn Municipal Airport and it sounds like he?ll be waiting at least another year before his North American T-28C is protected from the elements. But Wolfe is not alone, said Auburn Airport Manager Jerry Martin, who is working on a new plan to finish a multi-million-dollar 65-hangar addition to house larger airplanes. Martin said a $2 million phase one included clearing, grading and drainage for 10 acres on the east side of the 250-acre airport. The endeavor cost $700,000 more than anticipated and the rest of the project is estimated to cost another $3.1 million to complete. Martin said the original plan anticipated that about 20 of the new hangars would be paid for by individual plane owners who would rent the land underneath the airplane garages. Plane owners would lease the remaining 45 hangars from the city. Although Wolfe planned to pay for his own hangar construction, he agreed to pay $3,000 a year to lease the airport land it would be constructed on. ?It?s frustrating because we?ve been waiting a long, long time to have a hangar space,? Wolfe said Wednesday. ?All the major grading has been done for a long time and it was looking very promising. They took the tentative leases and deposits in March 2003 ... I wish they would agree upon the right of ways and put the underground (infrastructure) and taxiways in and let the people who are going to build their own hangars, like me, build.? Martin said Wolfe is a prime example of why the city agreed to add 65 new hangars to the 70-year-old Auburn Municipal Airport in 2000. Since Martin has worked at the North Auburn location starting in 1998, the number of landings and take-offs has increased from 48,000 a year to 70,000. ?Airports are going to grow as the region grows and there?s a greater demand and a greater reliance on general aviation by businesses now,? Martin said. ?That?s why you see some of the commercial airlines in trouble. It?s because the business traveler has left the larger airports. They like the convenience of the smaller airplane and they save a lot of time that way. So I see Auburn playing a significant role for the transportation plan of the foothills.? Martin is revising the construction plans to incorporate 8 acres were purchased this April on the southern side of the airport. ?We haven?t decided on a final course of action,? Martin said. ?We may put the entire project out for private development and the developer could lease the hangars or sell them.? Wolfe said he?s open to the idea, but hopes something is resolved soon. ?I don?t expect to take it at the public?s expense, but the rents were going fairly high,? he said.