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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission withholds tentative approval of airport budget

Updated: Jun 27

By Charlene Sims,

MOUND CITY – The Linn County airport is still open for takeoffs and landings; it just doesn’t have any fuel to sell. County airport manager Jessica Hightower emphasized that fact on during the weekly county commission meeting on Monday, June 25.

Hightower, who is also county economic development director and assistant public works administrator, presented the airport’s tentative budget request for 2025 at the meeting.

She said she kept the amount for next year the same as 2024 except for $10,000 she put back in for capital outlay, for maintenance mostly. She told commissioners that it had recently been discovered that all the antennas on the runway lights need to be replaced.

 That is going to be expensive, she said. She added that she would be more comfortable having that built into the budget so the county can do more things like that.

She told commissioners that she had approached a surveyor about dividing the airport from the hay ground to see if the county could apply for an exemption for the airport. However, she had not heard back yet about the cost of the survey.

Discussion was held about whether the county would have to pay back a prorated amount to the state for the $1.5 million they had received in grants for the airport.

Hightower told them that the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) had informed her that if the county sold the airport and wrote it into the sales contract that the airstrip has to remain a public-access airport until 2029, the state would not make the county pay back the money.

“Their requirement is that the runway remain a public access runway for 10 years after the most recent grant was received which was in 2019,” said Jessica.

“So what happens to a county if they get in a financial fix where they can’t maintain the airport anymore?” asked McCullough.

Hightower said she did not know anything other than the airport would have to remain public access.

Johnson asked, “Does public access mean that the lights and everything, even though we have the airport closed down now, I mean as far as . . .”

Hightower quickly responded, “The airport is not closed. The fuel system is closed, yes.”

Johnson asked if aircraft could still land, and she said they could.

Johnson asked if the county was responsible for all the lights to be working.

is responsible for their upkeep. 

Johnson asked, “As long as the lights are there?”

“Yes, and since they were grant funded, they don’t really want us pulling them,” she added.

More discussion was held on trying to get a company to lease the airport, hiring a person to run the airport, and what else could be done.

Jessica pointed out that if a person was hired to run the airport, that person would probably ask that the fuel pump would need to be operational. She said that the price of putting in a digital fuel pump would be about $15,000.

Johnson said, “I’m not a huge fan of putting a lot of money into it myself.”

McCullough asked County Counselor Mark Hagen, “Is there a way we can say, 'Fly at your own risk’ and ‘Land at your own risk’ type thing or is that just crazy to think?”

Hagen answered, “It would probably violate the terms of the grant to put that in there that way. It needs to be available for the public and maintained.”

“I think there are too many unknowns,” McCullough said. “I don’t know how I could be for a budget when I don’t know anything about future plans. I have too many questions.” 

The commission decided to wait two weeks to make a decision on the budget until Hightower could look into some of the commission’s questions. 

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