The Washington State University regents were expected to take action Wednesday on a $15.3 million real estate deal, but their vote was postponed because it wasn’t clear whether WSU actually owns some of the buildings it was preparing to sell.
The deal involves the sale of 29 buildings and 125 acres of land to the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport, which is in the process of expanding and realigning its runway to bring it into compliance with federal regulations.
Paperwork discrepancies discovered Tuesday evening suggested nine of those buildings might belong to the U.S Department of Agriculture, which has utilized the spaces for joint research ventures for decades, said Phil Weiler, the university’s vice president for marketing and communications.
Weiler couldn’t say how the discrepancies previously went unnoticed. After more than a year of complex negotiations involving the school, the airport and the Federal Aviation Administration, officials thought they had “dotted all their i’s and crossed all their t’s,” he said.
“There was an assumption that, at some point, the ownership of those buildings had been transferred to the university,” he said, “and now it doesn’t appear that that has happened.”
Weiler said officials hope to quickly identify the true building owners. The regents should be able to vote on the deal during their regular meeting in the third week of September, if not sooner, he said. The deal also requires approval from the Pullman City Council.
WSU and USDA officials have voiced concerns about the impact of the runway expansion on agricultural research, although they recognize the importance of air travel to the isolated college town.
“My sense is that everyone involved wants this project to move forward,” Weiler said.
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