The Oregon Department of Transportation has extended the deadline on their demand for repayment of $377,152 in ConnectOregon V grant funds and payment of an additional $13,033 to meet the minimum requirement for matching funds for grants entered into in 2015 by Sisters Eagle Airport.
The state agency alleges that the airport "misexpended" grant funds allocated for specific airport improvement projects. Benny Benson told The Nugget earlier this month that "the Sisters Airport and its principals, Benny and Julie Benson, will follow Oregon Administrative Procedures in the review and response."
"The Sisters Airport management retained an attorney, who asked ODOT for two more weeks to get up to speed with our dispute claim," ODOT spokesman David Thompson told The Nugget. "We certainly granted that. So the new deadline for response is April 20."
ODOT's Thompson says that the agency has no further comment on the grant repayment demand for the time being.
"...Now that the two sides are about to engage in discussions of the dispute, we're not going to say anything else about it until something comes from the discussions," he wrote in an email to The Nugget.
The new deadline coincidentally coincides with the date of a new Oregon Department of Aviation hearing on adding Sisters Airport to Oregon's list of airports of state concern. The two processes are separate and ODA will act only on whether the airport meets one or more of the three criteria for listing in Appendix M/Exhibit 2 as a privately owned, public-use airport of state concern.
City Manager Rick Allen informed city councilors on Monday that the Skydive Awesome operation appears to be set to move to Madras. He quoted an email stating, "We will be operating this summer in Madras, OR while the City of Sisters and the Sisters airport sorts out multiple issues regarding general aviation and jump operations."
Allen told councilors that the email "confirms what I have heard from the Sisters Airport Manager and the Madras Airport, I guess it's pretty official. Secondly I do know that some items in the drop zone at the Madras Airport were being cleared for skydivers to land, I talked with the gentleman who was coordinating the removal of some posts for safety.
"This should decrease the tensions between the neighbors and airport..."
In another matter, Sara Kelly, Aquatic Resource Coordinator for Crook, Deschutes, Harney and Malheur counties with the Department of State Lands told The Nugget that DSL plans to make a site visit to the airport during the last week of April to evaluate the status of a paved "runout" on the airport runway. The runout sits on common area owned by the adjacent Eagle Air Estates subdivision and may have been built on lands mapped as wetlands.