EAST WENATCHEE — After more than a decade of talk, finally there was action in a $28.5 million project that will extend a runway at Pangborn Memorial Airport.
It didn’t take more than 15 minutes for the steel jaws of an excavator to crunch through the roof and flatten a manufactured home at 3247 Airway St. Tuesday. The older frame house and garage next to it at 3245 Airway took a little longer. But far less time than it took the two houses and surrounding homes to grow into a tightknit neighborhood. The two homes were owned by Ted and Barbara LeRoy and Ted’s mother, Lynas LeRoy.
“It’s a crying shame. Four generations of family lived in those homes,” said Bishop Przespolewski, who lives next door at 14 S. Union Ave. “Oh dear, that hurts,” he added as the Pipkin Construction excavator took another bite, sending a shower of splinters and dust into the afternoon air.
“My daughter asked me if that’s going to happen to our house,” said Daren Fuller, who since 1999 has lived across Airway Street from the two houses that were demolished. He and his daughter sat on the roof of their own house to view and photograph the destruction. His daughter, Kristina, 5, and two other children have lived there all their lives.
“I told her we’ll find another nice house,” he said. The Fullers’ house at 3260 Airway will be demolished, probably some time within the next year. Fuller was recently laid off from his job as an airplane mechanic at Executive Flight, a private aeronautical company next to Pangborn. Where the family moves depends on where he finds his next job, he said. He said he’s “content” with an offer by the airport to buy his property, but that the agreement makes it no less sad to see the neighborhood disrupted and the thought of their house being demolished.
“This is the culmination of a long process, but at this point it becomes personal,” he said.
Przespolewski said he’s yet to strike a deal with the airport, although he knows he and his wife will eventually have to move.
“They’d like to steal it. But I guess that’s what you call progress,” he said bitterly.
“We’ve been here 20 years and both of us have finally got to the place where we have time to make it the way we want,” added Pattie Przespolewski.
Another neighbor, Rick Toland, said he was relieved to find out recently that he won’t have to give up his house and property at 3241 Airway. The house next to him, however, has already been sold. Many years ago, it was owned by Toland’s grandparents.
“Our neighbors were pretty nice so we were sad to see them go, but we were happy that we get to stay,” Toland said.
Trent Moyers, airport manager, said commissioners for Chelan and Douglas Port districts tried to come up with a plan to impact as few resident owners as possible. Using grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and local dollars, they’ve been buying property needed to expand the runway from 5,700 feet to 7,000 feet and reroute Union Avenue near its junction with Grant Road.
Moyers said the two houses demolished Tuesday are the only ones that will be removed this year. One other house has been purchased and the airport is in different stages of talks with owners of seven others that will likely be removed next year.
Work will continue this year to remove orchard and prepare for utility rerouting on some agricultural land that has been purchased, he said. If things go according to plan, construction to reroute existing roads will begin in 2015 with extension of the runway in 2016.
“It’s a long process,” Moyers said.
The 1,700-foot runway extension will make the airport more reliable for existing flights during extreme weather. It would also make the airport more appealing to other airlines that fly larger jets.
Alaska Airlines is the only airline with regularly scheduled flights between Pangborn and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. A second airline could possibly offer flights to other cities. The FAA will pay for about 90 percent of the costs of the expansion.