airplane sits in a hangar

An airplane sits in a hangar at Washington Regional Airport Monday, Sept. 28.

Concerns over rising steel prices have caused city officials to temporarily halt the construction of new airplane hangars at Washington Regional Airport. 

Washington Public Works Director John Nilges made the announcement at Tuesday’s meeting of the Washington Area Transportation Commission. 

“We were prepared to go out for bid on an eight-bay hangar, with the first option being to build two additional hangars and a second option of building two more additional hangars,” Nilges said. Officials had hoped to have the hangar construction project completed by late 2021. 

“Right now, the cost of steel is three times as high as what it was six months ago, if not higher,” Nilges said. “We’ve determined that we are going to sit on this for a little while.” 

City officials said they plan to resume the project once steel prices stabilize in the near future. 

In September, city officials said a combination of state and federal money would largely pay for the proposed $1.2 million hangar construction project. The city’s portion was estimated at that time to be less than $40,000. 

The construction of the potential 12-bay hangar will be largely paid for using money from the Airport Entitlement Fund or the Non-Primary Entitlement Fund, which are funds administered by the state on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration. These funds will cover $450,000 of the project’s total cost.

The local airport receives $150,000 annually from the Non-Primary Entitlement Fund, which is money that can only be spent on improvements at the airport. This money is capped at $450,000 and must be spent, or it is forfeited back to the federal government.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is paying $556,000 toward the hangar construction. This is money that Washington’s city government would have been tasked with paying had the state transportation department not stepped in.

The city’s capital improvement sales tax fund will pay nothing toward the project; instead, the city will pay $34,799 from its general fund.

The airport, which is located 3 miles north of Washington in southern Warren County along Highway 47, currently has 36 hangar spaces in three buildings, with the most recent hangar project being completed in 2013. There are nearly 30 pilots on the wait list for available hangar space at Washington Regional Airport. The airport is largely used by recreational flyers and business-related travelers.

Last fall, city leaders said the addition of 12 new hangars to the airport would increase the airport’s revenue by $36,000 annually. 

Ward 1 Councilman Steve Sullentrup, who acts as a liaison between the Washington City Council and the 353 Redevelopment Corp., said during the 353 meeting that the city might decide to move forward with the project “later this year.”

“We have more money coming in from the federal government, so maybe if we want to move forward with it later, then we can,” Sullentrup said. “Right now, though, we are going to sit on it.”

Nilges said the decision to delay construction stems from city leaders wanting to maximize the investment at the airport. “We felt like if we were going to build something, we need to build as much of it as possible, which is only possible if prices go down,” he said. “If we see prices go down, then we feel we can move pretty quickly on this.”