Council Receives Regional Airport Update

Oskaloosa City Hall

Oskaloosa City Hall

By Eduardo Zamarripa, CRI Weekly News

Oskaloosa, Iowa – On Monday night, the Oskaloosa City Council received a presentation and an updated timeline from South Central Regional Airport Agency (SCRAA) Chairman Jim Hansen.

In March 2012, Pella, Oskaloosa, and Mahaska County formed a 28E agreement allowing the entities to construct a regional airport. The agency says the regional airport will eventually close the airports in Pella and Oskaloosa, allowing the cities to jointly operate the airport. The agency also says the airport will eliminate safety concerns in the Pella airport, and complement economic development in the region.

The regional airport has been a hot button issue in Oskaloosa. Several farmers, along with the Taxpayers Against Regional Airport (TARA), have expressed concerns about the project. Specifically speaking against allowing the use of eminent domain in the language of the 28E agreement between the three entities. Eminent domain allows the government to take private property and turn it into public use.

Nevertheless, the project has continued moving forward.

On May 2013, the agency identified ‘Site A’ as the preferred regional airport location. The agency submitted a site selection report to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in December 2013. That location touches on the properties of nine different landowners. So far, the agency has contacted seven of the landowners.

“Those conversations have gone fairly well,” Hansen says. “I think we’ve been able to address some concerns, answer some questions that those folks had.”

Hansen says the SCRAA can’t start acquisition discussions until the airport master plan and environmental studies are completed and approved by the FAA.

Here are the upcoming items for the SCRAA, along with the anticipated submittal dates:

  • Airport layout plan (July 15, 2014)
  • Airport master plan (September 30, 2014)
  • Environmental Assessment (November 30, 2014)
  • Land acquisition (March 1, 2015)
  • Facilities open to the public/cities close existing facilities (January 1, 2021)

Hansen says the agency is “optimistic” the airport will be up and running by 2020, but for now, the agency is still targeting 2021 as its opening date. Hansen also says construction of the airport will happen from 2017 to 2019.

In other agenda items, the council approved allowing the city manager to acquire and demolish the property at 517 B Avenue West. That property was recently condemned by the city because of unsafe living conditions. All residents have already been ordered out of the property.

The property owner did not want to tear down the building, which is why the owner gave it to the city. Now, the city decides what to do with it.

“That’s kind of the dilemma with this item. Yeah, if we start putting pressure on people and they don’t want to do anything with it, what happens?” says City Manager Michael Schrock. “They can come to us and say they want to walk away.”

The land is worth approximately $16,000-$17,000, and the building itself is worth approximately $55,000. The demolition cost has not been defined yet. However, Schrock says he “heard a number of $30,000.” But Schrock says that figure did not come from the city, so that estimate might not be accurate.

“We do not know the cost of removal at this point in time. We just got this (Thursday),” Schrock says.

The council approved demolishing the building on a 4-3 vote. Councilmen Tom Walling, Doug Yates and Joe Caligiuri voted “no.” Had the council voted against it, the city would have forced the owner to demolish the building. If the owner had not followed through, he would have faced jail time.

Schrock says the city will seek multiple bids for the demolition project.

The council also discussed possible action on the city’s support of the Blue Zones Project. However, no action was taken and the council will now discuss its involvement with the project in a planning committee.

The next city council meeting is on May 19 at 6 p.m.

 

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