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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission weighs options to manage county airport

The Linn County Commission learned the history behind the development of the county airport on Monday and discussed some solutions to management problems there. (Journal file photo)

MOUND CITY – Linn County Economic Development Director and Airport Manager Jessica Hightower updated the Linn County commissioners on activities at the airport on Monday, Feb. 6.

Jessica Hightower told the commissioners that nothing had been announced by the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) about the grant that the county had applied for to develop a business plan for the airport.

Commission Chair Danny McCullough asked Jessica Hightower if she had found a signed copy of a contract with Pleasanton for the airport. She said there was not signed copy that anyone can find.

At the time the county applied for the grant, they were looking at repairing the old Gilmore airstrip or building a new airport.

County Counselor Gary Thompson gave a brief description of the history of the airport and in a later phone interview he said that the state of Kansas approached the county about building an airport here because of the lack of an airstrip in the area between Olathe and Fort Scott.

But, the grant the state was offering had to be applied for by a city, so the city of Pleasanton went in as a partner on the application. The airport actually went in front of the Linn County Planning and Zoning Board for approval before it was built even though it later was annexed by the city.

The city ended up having to annex the land, because it was a requirement of the grant that it be on city property. The city of Pleasanton later gave the airport property back to the county.

Thompson said at that time the county had been contacted by several people wanting to be the fixed base operator (FBO) at the airport.

The FBO would have been granted authority by the airport owner (the county) to provide aviation services, such as fuel, parking and hangar space to the general aviation community.

After getting the grant and building the airport, no one applied to be the FBO, leaving the county as the manager of the airport.

At Monday’s meeting, Thompson told the commissioners that he was going to apply for a tax exemption from all entities collecting property taxes at the airport including the county, city, and school district. The exemption would be for everything that the county owns at the airport, not the lots that have been sold.

If this exemption is granted, lots sold in the future would no longer be under the exemption.

Jessica Hightower said that the airport could not be a Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) airport because the county sells lots there.

Commissioner Jim Johnson asked if that kept some airplanes from landing there.

Jessica Hightower said no, mainly what determines what planes can land there depends on the length of the runway. She said that there had been plans drawn up in the past to extend the runway by 1,500 to 2,000 feet.

Thompson said that he thought it would be possible to get a developer interested in developing the airport and taking over the lots and selling them.

Johnson called the airport a money pit.

The commission also discussed whether the airport had Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPI) lights. These lights are the current standard Visual Glide Slope Indicator (VGSI) consisting of four light boxes arranged perpendicular to the edge of the runway. They provide a pattern of red and white lights that provide visual approach slope information.

Jessica Hightower and Public Works Director Shaun West thought that there were PAPI lights in storage at the airport that had not been installed.

Thompson suggested that if the county did not receive the grant, that they put out a request for proposal (RFP) for a developer to take over the airport.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Learned that County Clerk David Lamb had promoted Stephen Sage to a Clerk II from Clerk I at the rate of $17.39 per hour due to Sage’s performance in the office and his willingness to accept additional duties. The clerk’s office still has an opening.

• Approved a $10,112 bid for service and maintenance for the health department and courthouse generators with Clifford Power Systems, the company that is doing service for the Justice Center generators. The other bid was from Cummins Sales and Service for $13,052.

• Approved a resolution for zoning change for land at the address of 6327 Irwin Road, Mound City, from Agricultural to Agricultural Residential owned by Chad and Alicia Stoll and also the grant of road easement.

• Learned from Sanitation Director Darin Wilson that the ASC Pumping Equipment was coming on Tuesday to install new baskets at the Centerville Sewer Station.

• Approved a memorandum of agreement with Walnut Township in Missouri for maintenance of a portion of State Line Road.

• Learned from Public Works Director Shaun West that there had been a water main leak at the Linn County Park just outside of the bathhouse and all road districts helped with the repairs.

• Learned that Linn County Park Manager Sheri Loveland was working on the policy of golf carts and side-by-sides to operate on the roads in the park.

• Learned from West that he had notified all county department heads that noxious weed director Johnny Taylor would be spraying for bugs in their departments.

.• Learned that the employee going through the county CDL training may actually finish the eight-week course in four weeks.

• Discussed changing the budget next year by putting employee benefits in each department’s budget rather than in one employee benefits budget.

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