T.A.R.A. Addresses Concerns In Town Hall Meeting

Supervisor Mark Doland (right) helped to answer questions at Thursday nights T.A.R.A. town hall meeting.

Supervisor Mark Doland (right) helped to answer questions at Thursday nights T.A.R.A. town hall meeting.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Nearly 100 area residents came out Thursday night to hear a PowerPoint presentation by the local group T.A.R.A. [Taxpayers Against Regional Airport]

Tim Van Maanen, a rural Mahaska County Resident presented the PowerPoint that highlighted the groups concerns over the proposed airport, and the use of eminent domain.

Van Maanen quoted the SCRAA, on them saying that they wanted to complete the land acquisition for the airport without the use of eminent domain. He said if that is the case, then they should remove the use of eminent domain from the 28E agreement.

“We are not against this airport,” Van Maanen said to those gathered, but feel that the airport is not necessary.

Rob Hammann, another member of T.A.R.A., helped to further explain the group’s question of if the airport is needed, and why other facilities wouldn’t serve that function.

Hammann quoted an email from former FAA State Planner, Iowa – Todd Madison, dated October 29, 2003, in which Madison says, “As part of any future Federal study, we will require that all alternatives be thoroughly analyzed, and in addition to those alternative that were presented in the Feasibility Study, other alternatives must include the following:

1) The no action alternative,
2) Improve the existing Pella Municipal Airport,
3) Improve the existing Oskaloosa Municipal Airport, and
4) Acquire and improve any other existing airport, whether it be privately or publically owned.

For example, the alternative to extend Pella’s existing runway should be considered even though it will require the potential relocation of some golf course holes and some housing.”

Recently, in the Iowa Aviation System Plan 2010-2013, put out by the Iowa Department of Transportation, it

says, “Airports in Pella and Oskaloosa have limited capabilities to support the operations of larger business jet aircraft. Feasibility studies for a joint airport and a Pella replacement airport have all shown justification for an Enhanced Service airport in the area. Geographic constraints impacting future development opportunities at both airports combined with their proximity to each other justify a regional approach towards increasing the level of facilities and services for the region. Population and economic growth projected for Marion and Mahaska counties throughout the planning period will require an airport capable of providing infrastructure and services typically available at an Enhanced Service airport.

It is recommended the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa increase cooperation to develop a new regional airport to replace existing airports serving these communities. A mutually agreed upon location, in proximity to both Pella and Oskaloosa, will be essential to the successful development of a new airport. Lack of cooperation may result in airports with inadequate infrastructure and services to meet the air transportation demands of the region, impacting quality of life and opportunities for economic growth.”

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Doland, who is also a part of the T.A.R.A., explained that getting out of the existing 28E agreement won’t be easy to accomplish.

Doland said that he has asked for the use of eminent domain to be removed from the 28E agreement. He added that the two of the three current supervisors were not on the board when the agreement was made.

Mike Vander Molen and Mark Doland are the two new representatives on the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors. Doland explained that Vander Molen has publicly expressed that he is against the use of eminent domain in regards to the proposed regional airport.

When questioned by an audience about having the board of supervisors vote to remove themselves from the 28E agreement. “If there was an ability to do so,” Doland responded. “However it’s not that easy. The 28E agreement is not a matter of voting to get out of. It is indefinite.”

And for that reason, both he and T.A.R.A. have turned their attention to having the language of the agreement changed. “The only thing that is in place is if we don’t go along with it,” Doland said. But then the county would be fined $250,000.00 per infraction, but would, in fact, still be a part of the SCRAA.

Doland said that one possibility of changing the 28E agreement would be through influencing their appointees to the SCRAA board to alter the terms of the agreement, since they would be the ones to hold the power to do so.

Doland contested the “myth” on consolidation of airports. He said that according to his brother-in-law, who is an aerospace engineer, who explained that with expanded urban areas, and less room for cities, “the wave of the future’s not going to be to have a 7500 foot runway, that will handle Class C air travel, the wave of the future is actually the aircraft. They already have the technology in the military. The aircraft is going to be landing more vertical rather than needing more space. They can better engineer an aircraft to land in shorter distances, they already can. They can land straight up and down in the military.”

Doland was referencing the already utilized aircraft in the U.S. Air Force such as the V-22 Ospery which is a tilt-rotor aircraft that first saw combat in 2007, after massive delays and cost overruns after it’s initial appearance in 2000.

Another new STOL (Short Take-off and Landing) aircraft is the F-35B Lightning II, which is set to replace the AV-8 Harrier II. In 2010, the Pentagon released information that the F-35 had overrun its budget by 50%.

Currently, the conventional take-off variant of the F-35 or A model is slated to replace the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt II by 2028. Currently, the United States and United Kingdom are the only ones with operational F-35′s.

In an interview with our coverage partner CRI, Supervisor Doland said, “I’m not trying to stop the airport project, that’s not my intent. But just to protect private property rights in order that, those who are in the sights of the airport, if they don’t want to sell their ground then they don’t have to, unless they’re compensated for what they feel like they should be compensated at.

The master plan for the proposed regional airport is currently being developed. That will then be followed up by an environmental assessment. This process can take approximately two years. Until then, the board can’t open dialogue with land owners about acquisition.

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