SISTERS, Ore. - The Oregon Department of Transportation is demanding repayment of half of a $733,000 grant to the Sisters Eagle Airport, claiming the money was misused. The letter goes into details about why ODOT is demanding repayment of about half of the ConnectOregon program grant, which totals hundred of thousands of dollars.
The ConnectOregon grant was supposed to be used to expand the runway at Sisters Eagle Airport. ODOT sent a 12-page letter to the airport's owners on Tuesday, detailing a financial review that found them to be out of compliance with the program's requirements.
According to Peter Russell, senior transportation planner for Deschutes County, "There's a current code enforcement complaint out at the Sisters Airport for the extension of an overrun on the runway at the north end, and the two parties that are involved are currently in mediations."
In order to receive the grant money, the airport must be in compliance with several ODOT requirements.
"The runway extension isn't allowed to use the rural residential 10-acre minimum zoning, and it violates the open space requirement of the subdivision that was approved, which required 65 percent ... in the Eagle Air Estates subdivision," Russell said.
In the letter, ODOT said the airport had "mis-expended" funds of $377,152 from the original grant.
The letter said the money was to be used "solely for construction of a taxiway on the property, pavement of aircraft parking and ramp areas, installation of runway lighting and improvements associated with these projects." (A link to a PDF of the 12-page letter is below).
Instead ODOT said it believes some of the money was used on hangar projects, drainage and rock work.
In August, a nearby resident expressed concern about the airport's use of the grant money.
ODOT also stated the airport hasn't provided at least 20 percent of the grant money required for the project, as promised in their agreement.
In addition, the agency said some of the Sisters Eagle Airport's business practices violate the terms of the agreement, and they must be corrected if they want to be considered for future grants.
The owners of the Sisters Eagle Airport declined to go on camera for NewsChannel 21 before consulting an attorney.