Grant County Regional Shares Terminal with U.S. Forest Service

Robert Nordstrom
Published in: 

Grant County Regional Airport (JDA) in John Day, OR, is setting new standards for joint-use facilities. With space for general aviation functions, public events and the United States Forest Service, its new $5.3 million terminal includes out-of-the-ordinary architectural features including helipad facilities for the Forest Service. Additionally, the entire operation was designed and built to meet environmental certification standards.

"It was the first time the Forest Service and a county have agreed on building a shared-use facility," reports Grant County Economic Development Coordinator Sally Bartlett. As such, JDA's terminal is garnering state and national attention.

The Forest Service portion of the facility includes an office/administration area, operations center, sewing room for equipment maintenance, regional training academy with helibase administration, a large prep room for wildland firefighters to ready their gear, an exercise room, locker rooms and spaces for support activities.


Project: Joint-Use Terminal

Location: Grant Co. (OR) Regional Airport

Cost: $5.3 million

Funding: $3.98 million from Connect Oregon II state grant; $800,000 from U.S. Forest Service; $198,700 from FAA; $29,700 from USDA Rural Development Grant; $300,000

Title 3 county grant Prime Tenant:
U.S. Forest Service

Prime Consultant & Project Mgm’t:

Civil & Landscape Engineering: WHPacific

Architectural Design: CSHQA

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing: CSHQA

Structural Engineering & Interiors: CSHQA

General Contractor:
Kirby Nagelhout Construction

Of Note: Built to meet environmental certification standards

The more traditional airport side of the terminal supports flights for doctors from Bend and Portland who regularly visit Blue Mountain Hospital. Emergency service providers and local businesses are also frequent users. That portion of the building includes a pilot lounge, administration office, county maintenance shop, training room and spaces for support activities. 

The Forest Service, airport and general public share use of the third-floor observation deck, which offers a nearly 360-degree view of the airport and community. The observation deck is open to the public during the airport's regular business hours, and the Forest Service uses it to monitor operations, particularly during the fire season.

"For a community and airport this size, our facility is very unique," says Airport Manager Patrick Bentz. "Pilots who fly in tell me they are amazed we have a facility this nice."

Aching for Upgrades

The new 17,750-square-foot facility, completed in September 2010, is a dramatic improvement from the 1940s residential home that previously functioned as JDA's terminal. In the previous facility, customers and airport staff used a living room for meetings, and bedrooms served as offices and supply rooms.

Designing the new multipurpose building fell to architectural/engineering firm CSHQA. WHPacific was the project manager and provided civil and landscape architecture services.

In an uncharacteristic move, the Forest Service provided $800,000 for the new facility. To secure the funding, the county negotiated a tenancy-in-common agreement with the Forest Service for the terminal and a 15-year lease for the helipad.

"The Forest Service doesn't typically fund facilities they don't own," notes Rainse Anderson, PE, project manager for WHPacific.

Before JDA's new terminal was built, Forest Service operations were housed in several modular units on airport grounds. The arrangement created congestion - particularly during the fire season, when outside firefighters and eight to 10 Forest Service helicopters and crews arrived for deployment. During peak season, 25 to 30 staff members, plus 30 additional vendor personnel, converged on the decentralized facilities. 

The old modular buildings "were deteriorating and did not provide the fire and aviation programs adequate space," recalls Jeff Meyerholz, Forest Service airbase manager and unit aviation officer. Rising upkeep costs were also a factor encouraging change.

Now, Forest Service operations and offices occupy nearly the entire second floor of the terminal. The staff has expansive views of the airfield to oversee helicopter traffic. And firefighters prepare their equipment and gear packs for rappelling into burning areas in a 3,000-square-foot "ready room."

Educational sessions are held on the first floor, in a shared-use community room that can accommodate up to 80 people. During the early summer, 75 to 100 firefighters from around the nation attend the Forest Service's National Rappel Training Academy.

While the Forest Service and county agencies use the room free of charge, the airport also rents the room for public events such as meetings, weddings and receptions.

"The community has really gotten behind the facility," Anderson reports. "And the additional revenue is an added bonus."

A three-site RV pad with electrical and sewer hookups was built where the former terminal stood. Forest Service helicopter crews often park travel trailers there instead of staying in hotels about two miles away.

Green Design

One of the stipulations attached to the funds received from the Forest Service was that the terminal be built with the goal of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver certification. As a result, the new terminal includes green technologies and environmentally friendly materials. Notable elements include:

  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures to achieve 30% water-use reduction
  • 10% of building materials originating from recycled content
  • Recycling of 75% of nonhazardous construction and demolition debris
  • 10% of building materials manufactured within 500 miles of site
  • Lighting that is 25% more efficient than code
  • Natural lighting in all regularly occupied spaces; direct outside views for 99% of occupants
  • 37% improvement of energy performance via enhanced cooling tower, high-efficiency heat recovery units, a night purge system, occupancy sensors, daylight harvesting and photo sensors
  • Biomass boiler that saves 38% energy costs during peak heating season vs. all-electric system
  • Cement fiber siding; fiberglass window frames; metal roof

"This was the chance in a lifetime to build a facility that will last, while considering the efficiency and environmental friendliness of the materials used," relates CSHQA Senior Project Manager Steve Wakeman.

The biomass boiler uses wood pellets instead of wood chips, because pellets burn cleaner and hotter and are very efficient, he explains. A silo across the street from the terminal feeds pellets into the furnace.
"We are located in a Forest Service area where they cut slag to prevent fires," Wakeman notes. "A lot of times the slag would just be burned. Now, they can remove it, take it to the pellet plant located here in John Day and manufacture wood pellets."

Biomass boiler systems installed at JDA, Blue Mountain Hospital and two area schools have injected new life into the local lumber mill industry, notes Bentz. Their business helped Malheur Lumber, the last remaining mill in the area, secure American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to help build a pellet plant.

"At one time, we had nine lumber mills in the area," he recalls. "We've been hit hard by all the closings. To secure funding for the pellet plant, Malheur Lumber had to guarantee the state that it would remain open for at least five years. It's been two years now, and it looks like they're going to be able to keep going."

The new terminal also appears to be attracting new business to the area. Enviro Board Corp., a California firm that manufactures environmentally friendly building panels and housing systems, recently made a purchase offer for seven acres of land in the nearby industrial park. If it comes to fruition, the project is expected to bring 70 to 100 new jobs to the community.

"The airport is strategically located next to the industrial park," Bartlett explains. "Executives are able to get in and out easily with a small jet." 

Meyerholz agrees, noting that the upgraded terminal enhances the airport and Forest Service's ability to provide outstanding service to the community. "The new facility is the result of a truly collaborative effort," he reflects. "Both Grant County and the Forest Service are winners. We have established an infrastructure for the future growth of the community, the airport and the Forest Service fire and aviation program."

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