2nd Public Airport meeting brings different viewpoints to the table

Oskaloosa City Manager Michael Schrock Jr. address those in attendance at Oskaloosa’s 2nd meeting over a proposed regional airport.

Editor’s note – I know this article is longer than we normally have, but the importance of the information makes it necessary to provide as much information as possible on this subject.

The 3rd floor library meeting room was nearly standing room only as interested parties discussed a Regional Airport being proposed by Oskaloosa City Manager Michael Schrock Jr. This was the second such meeting this week, and it comes after visiting with many local service clubs recently over the same subject.

Attendance was high for the second meeting, and besides those of the citizenry, there were members of Oskaloosa’s City Council, Mahaska County Supervisors, representatives of Pella and the Iowa Department of Transportation.

“We as a city usually hear from residents, fix the roads, do something about jobs. I hear the same thing from businesses, what can you do for us, we have needs. So we’re trying to be responsive to that.” “We in Oskaloosa have heard that we don’t have an airport that necessarily provides all the amenities that are necessary for businesses to do what they need to do. So how do we address that?” “How do we want to stay relevant in the Nation, in the State, and this region.” This was part of an opening remark presented by Schrock at Thursday’s meeting.

“In this type of economy, political environment, there’s a lot of anti-government, there’s a lot of demand on limited resources, how do we address that.” “Usually you do it through partnerships” continued Schrock in his opening presentation.

After a few initial comments after requests for questions from the floor, it was decided to move along with the presentation to allow all information to be presented and to allow discussion to follow.

Schrock started off by talking about intermodal transportation. What it is and how the federal government approves a project based upon how many ways it will benefit the area asking for grants and money to do projects.

The definitions of intermodel transportation are as follows:

  • 1. (Business / Commerce) (of a transport system) using different modes of conveyance in conjunction, such as ships, aircraft, road vehicles, etc.
  • 2. (Business / Commerce) (of a container) able to be carried by different modes of conveyance without being unpacked

Schrock stated the council wanted to know that if this (airport) could make our chances of getting the highway improvements of 63 to a four lane that much more attractive to someone who is considering funding it, absolutely, let’s talk about this. “We know those highway improvements are vital to this region” stated Schrock. “Then I will come back to the council and say these are the things I’ve heard, these are the questions, these are the conversations we had.” After the discussions he will then ask the council where they would like to proceed in this.

Schrock went over the 11 points of FAA Expectations:

  • 1. Osky and Pella must close existing airports – Proceeds to regional airport.
  • 2.Mahaska County must close/relocate roads – support development of site.
  • 3.A public sponsor MUST take ownership, study, construction, and long term development – Legal and financial responsibility.
  • 4.Airport Authority is suggested to sponsor and advocate for regional airport – Partners MUST sign a binding agreement or create an Airport Authority.
  • 5-Regional airport MUST have State support – Include in Airport System Plan
  • 6-Parties MUST have the will to condemn
  • 7-Financial plan MUST be developed as part of master planning study
  • 8-Parties MUST have financial wherewithal to carry land costs and build landside needs. – FAA will focus on airside development.
  • 9-Once development begins, regional airport MUST be open in 5-7 years – existing airports should be sold soon after.
  • 10-Environment Assessment for Pella replacement airport WILL NOT BE COMPLETED. Master Plan will be completed, with Airport Layout Plan conditionally approved.
  • 11-Oskaloosa’s Master Planning grant, issued June 2010 will be cancelled and Fed funds recovered. – Oskaloosa Airport Commission suspended grant for six months.

Schrocks presentation is available from the city’s website HERE (document no longer available)

Comments from the floor were many times direct and to the point.

“You talk about consolidate to save money, and I can understand that.””Why don’t Oskaloosa use Ottumwa’s airport and Pella use Newton or Des Moines. To me that makes more sense.” was one of the first questions raised from the floor by a citizen.

“I can’t disagree with that from the standpoint of yes that could make sense. Does that address the local business needs for Pella, Pella Corp. I think the bottom line is Pella is going to build an airport.””So from the Oskaloosa perspective, Mahaska County, I’m saying, while yes that opportunity might be financially feasible route, what are the possibilities on what you might lose out on? What if Pella Corp leaves?””They have made it clear they want an airport, a Class C airport that’s close to their corporate headquarters.”

“What do they consider near?” was the next question from the floor.

Mike Nardini, Pella’s City Administrator, answered that question. He stated that with the feasibility studies that included looking at other airports in close proximity, such as Newton, Ottumwa, Des Moines and with that was included drive time, and all of those items were brought before the FAA as is required with such a project. And with the criteria, Pella was given the clear to move ahead with a new airport, as they have been running on a temporary permit to land Class C aircraft at their current facility since 2000. The airport is only rated for Class B aircraft. The airport is not able to expand because of development around it, such as the Highway 163 project.

Musco’s Joe Crookham during the November 18th regional airport discussion

As the discussion was continuing on as to why not operate from those current airports that are Class C already such as Newton or Ottumwa Musco president Joe Crookham stated, “The State of Iowa’s got something like 120, 130 airports, and if we’re going to attract businesses and attract jobs we gotta have airports that provide those services that it takes to support business aircraft so they can operate out of it.” “It’s partially geographic and partially picking out a plan that concentrates aircraft business so that you can afford to operate a plane in a place.” ” We need to be operating out of an airport that has four or five planes of our type so that a business man can come in and be the fixed base operator (FBO) and run a business there that will actually support our equipment.” “Farmers would find it kinda difficult in operating if they had to go 60 or 70 miles away to find anybody to work on farm equipment.” “You gotta have enough concentration of things to be able to make it a business practical operation.” Crookham stated that currently they are struggling to get that done.

“The State of Iowa only has so much money, the State of Iowa only has so much natural resource of good black dirt. If we don’t look at keeping some of our soil, down the road, generations from now, are going to wonder what they are going to grow our food on. That is a natural resource that we have to watch out for. I understand the cities wanting to grow and have what they need for their individual business growth, but where do the land owners and farmers stand, and the State of Iowa stand to keep that resource so that isn’t all gobbled up in concrete if it be road, airport? There has to be somebody backing the farmers for their soil.” was one of the next questions from the floor.

“These are the kinds of things that I think we got to, as a State, look at and recognize where we’re going. We have right now approximately 20 to 30 thousand acres of land that’s sitting under airports that are pointless in having. If we were to do a plan to get airports that would actually be active, we could put 20 to 30 thousand acres back in service. Exactly the point your making is something we do need to look at, but we need to recognize what we are doing, and as it stands right now we have a huge amount of farmland that’s tied up. Airports are built on some of the best farmland  there is. You have to have a nice flat land to build an airport. That’s the classic example of the problem. We have huge amounts of resources tied up in yesterday’s theory about the way they ought to do things, and it’s time we sit down and take a look at it and try to utilize our resources in an effective way.” Crookam explained.

“If this airport is located between Oskaloosa and Pella, how much will it cost, how many acres are involved if that is the right solution? I know that when Ankeny’s airport went in, it spurred tremendous growth. We did a number of buildings out there. Our corporations came all the way from Milan, Italy, if you can believe that, and so I know what a growth element that can be. But I guess the question is, if you put it there, how many acres and how much will it cost.” was the comment and question from the floor.

US 63 Transportation Study

“We would have to go through the site selection process. The FAA has made that very clear to us. So there is no one site that it, for sure, would end up.” Schrock stated. “My understanding is that your probably looking at 600 acres for a Category C airport. Cost would be estimated around 30 million. Again, the local share of that would not be even close to 30 million. The local share, depending upon how you break up the improvements, could be 5% of that.” Schrock further explained.

“If you look at something experimentally and not hypothetically then why is Ottumwa, because it has a Class C airport, and Newton, it has a Class C airport, then why as just as a matter of fact they have not become a hotbed of economic activity with numerous corporations coming into them because they have these Class C airports?”was the next question from the floor.

“Building an airport doesn’t make everything work. But not having an airport will keep you from ever getting there. Ottumwa has the problem of first of all, they have an airport that is very minimal. We got our airplane down there momentarily, but our pilots are saying we got at least a quarter million dollars we have to spend to be able keep the plane down there. The hangars are in such terrible shape down there. Planes getting all sorts of crap all over it and it’s gonna start getting cold and you can’t keep it heated down there. Yeah, you can go out and look at concrete laying out there, but they don’t really have a full service airport down there, and nobody can really put and airplane down there and keep it down there. You can land and take off but you can’t operate a business out of that location. And there’s nobody down there that can actually work on the planes because there’s no other planes down there.” Crookham informed the group.

“Is that the situation in Newton as well?” was the reply from the floor.

“I don’t know who operates out, what Newton’s doing, that sort of thing. I can tell you the Iowa Speedway wouldn’t be there without it. And that’s a pretty significant economic resource for Newton and for the State. Without that, you couldn’t possibly run a NASCAR track without a runway.” was Joe Crookham’s response to the second question.

There are many more comments, concerns and questions to come. If you have an interest or concern the upcoming Oskaloosa City Council Meetings and County Supervisor meetings will soon be covering this project along with the proposed expansion of Highway 63 to 4 lanes. A packed meeting room shows great interest from all involved on this subject.

If you want info from the first meeting, you can follow this link HERE to that story. You can also join us on Facebook for comments or questions on this story by following this link.

Posted by on Nov 19 2010. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

2 Comments for “2nd Public Airport meeting brings different viewpoints to the table”

  1. […] more about the regional airport, please read our previous stories about the proposal by clicking HERE and HERE. Share this Oskynews.org story News    Christmas Trees specialty of […]

  2. […] suddenly stopped a few months ago. You can read some of our previous coverage on the airport here. When asked about the airport and if Oskaloosa was still in talks with Pella, Schrock had this to […]

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