COUPEVILLE — The Port of Coupeville continues to pursue ownership of the A.J. Eisenberg Airport near Oak Harbor.
Following an executive session during a public meeting Wednesday, port commissioners passed a motion instructing the executive director to work with the port’s attorney to make an offer on the airport “with contingencies to protect the port.”
The details of the decision are unclear, including what funds the port would use to purchase the airport.
The decision is a departure from the port’s previous course of action. Port commissioners voted in October 2021 to encourage the county to purchase the airport, though they still intended the port to be the ultimate owner and operator. The plan was for the county, which has the funds but no desire to own the property, to immediately transfer ownership.
In May of last year, county commissioners passed a motion to negotiate for the purchase of the airport with the intent of rapidly transitioning ownership to the Port of Coupeville.
The plan never came to fruition; County Commissioner Melanie Bacon said the county never made an offer, nor does it intend to. During a meeting last November, the commissioners expressed disappointment that neither the port nor other government entities had made a firm commitment to be the owner and operator. They were advised not to make an offer or pursue any grants.
Yet Bacon said the county is still willing to be a financial partner to the port, pending a feasibility study. The airport will require a significant amount of maintenance and repairs, including cleaning up a chemical spill on the property.
Bacon said the county commissioners recognize the value of having a small airport on North Whidbey, especially considering how unlikely it is that any other land on the island will be zoned for that purpose again.
“We just want to ensure that this airport is protected as a viable entity going into the future,” she said.
She said the county has a dollar amount in mind that it will contribute to the port’s purchase of the airport, though she could not share the amount while negotiations are ongoing.
Port Executive Director Chris Michalopoulos said he believes the city of Oak Harbor is also willing to be a financial partner in the purchase, given the potential benefit of a viable airport for the city.
Michalopoulos said he will begin discussions with the port attorney soon to work out the details of the offer.
This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sibling publication to The Herald.
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