Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

Tekoa airport fuel up in the air

 

April 4, 2019



The City of Tekoa will soon choose whether to provide fuel at its airport after losing its longtime supplier last summer.

Previously, a Pullman company brought the fuel and did the billing.

“So we’re trying to figure out what to do,” said city councilman Roy Schulz, the liaison to the town-owned airstrip, which brings in money from renting hangar space and ground space.

Inter-State Aviation of Pullman decided to pull out soon before the credit card reader at the Tekoa pump was deemed in need of a technology upgrade. Estimated cost is $17,000.

“I did not know that was going to hit them,” said Doug Gadwa, owner of Inter-State Aviation. “It might be a legal, mandatory upgrade. I might have been skating along without being notified.”

For the city, besides upgrading the card reader, another option may be to install a mechanism, estimated at $1,500, which would allow local pilots to punch in a pin number to be billed.

“That’s considerably cheaper, but if a guy flies in from Tacoma, he doesn’t have a pin number,” Schulz said.

Another option Schulz suggested is that the city could have a pin number and an out-of-town pilot could call city hall, where a representative could take credit card information over the phone and relay a pin number to turn on the pump.

“I’m kind of refusing to accept that the answer is to not to have fuel,” said Schulz. “We would do it as a service.”

The city council is expected to discuss the matter at its next meeting April 15.

If Tekoa does decide to supply fuel, it would collect bids and choose a new contractor, such as they do with heating oil. Also, the city would need to pay for repairs if the pump breaks, or other maintenance.

“The airport does not have much in reserves,” said Schulz.

Is this a reason not to do it?

“It may be,” Schulz said. “To me, it’s a no-brainer, but if the guy in charge of the airport is not in favor of it, who else is gonna be?”

What is the reason it’s a ‘no-brainer?”

“You’re growing or you’re dying,” Schulz said.

Since last summer, Tekoa has re-supplied the fuel tank twice, a temporary measure by JMT Petroleum of Latah, where Schulz works.

“It was summer. Guys were flying in and out of there,” Schulz said. “I just loaded up my truck and took it out there and put it in.”

The city made two 500-gallon purchases from JMT. If they did this on a regular basis, it would require going out to bid.

The supplier

“We gave (the operation) back to the city,” said Gadwa. “We had to cancel, everything.”

They had supplied fuel for the Tekoa airport for more than 15 years.

“I’m selling my business. I was supplying fuel to Tekoa as a service to the flying community,” said Gadwa. “We’re talking about selling a thousand gallons a year.”

Earlier, in the late ‘90s, Tekoa got a Washington State Department of Aviation grant for the airport’s 5,000-gallon tank and the credit card processor. The new tank preceded the removal of single-lined underground tanks after a law was passed against them for environmental reasons.

“Tekoa is just not a destination airport,” said Gadwa. “I didn’t want to burden a new owner with a public service instead of a profit center.”

Inter-State, based at Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport, is the refueler for Horizon Air, which buys more than 15,000 gallons per month.

What might happen now?

“What would be the most economical would be one of their tenants out there to have a fuel sheet and credit card processor, even a square for an iPad,” said Gadwa. “Or it could be an honor system, issuing keys.”

Pilot

“We don’t normally go through that much gas there,” said Harold Morgan of Tekoa, who runs Morgan’s Aircraft Repair out of the hangar he owns at the airport. He started the business in 1974, buying out the former Tekoa Skyways in the process.

Morgan indicated three to four pilots regularly fly out of the Tekoa airport.

What would pilots do if there were no gas at Tekoa?

One option is a seven to eight-minute flight at 150 miles per hour to St. Maries, Idaho, to get gas.

“You can’t make enough money off the gas on small volume like that,” said Morgan. “To me, it’s to Tekoa’s advantage to keep it going, but I’m just one guy.”

 
 

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