The Port of Walla Walla has accepted a loan in the amount of $2 million for the construction of a Life Flight Network hangar and crew quarters at the Walla Walla Regional Airport.
Originally, the Port applied for grant funding from the state's Community Economic Revitalization Board — or CERB — but received a loan instead. During the Thursday, April 27, Port Commission meeting, Patrick Reay, executive director of the Port of Walla Walla, said that because of the overall financial health of the Port, the organization was in the highest tier of receivable funding, which has low-interest loans.
Jennifer Skoglund, manager for the Walla Walla Regional Airport, outlined the process for accepting the initial loan offer. She said current project cost is $2.5 million. The CERB loan has a 3% interest rate to be paid off in 20 years, and the additional $500,000 would come from the Port of Walla Walla as a match.
To qualify for CERB funding, the Port was required to go through a committed private partnership program. The private party, Life Flight Network, must invest in some aspect of the project, which they have done by committing a $5.5 million investment in new equipment.
Port of Walla Walla Commissioner Mike Fredrickson said the new hangar and crew base will help the community for years to come.
"One life saved by them (Life Flight Network) is worth it right there," Fredrickson said.
Port of Walla Walla Commissioner Kip Kelly added that the potential of additional jobs and job retention would greatly impact the community as well.
Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the CERB loan.
"Obviously we have a long way to go on this project in terms of getting the design, which Life Flight is going to take the lead on that," Skoglund said. She said the next steps after the design phase would be the Port filing city and county permits and then finding a construction firm to build the new space. The project budget will be built as the process continues.
"This will just get the process going," Skoglund said. "We're excited that this is going to work out."
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