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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Expenses for county airport a concern for commission

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

Fuel sales at the Linn County Airport finally were profitable in 2022, but not by much. The county commission was brought up to date on the financial health of the facility on Monday. (Journal file photo)

MOUND CITY – Linn County Airport Manager Jessica Hightower handed out financial information for the airport to the commissioners on Monday, Jan. 30.

Hightower said that she had prepared the information because Commissioner Jim Johnson asked for it. She then updated the commission on issues at the airport.

She said that the fuel pump was broken again and needed to be repaired. She said that the gears were jammed in the refurbished insides of the pump.

That did not allow the device to display the total amount of the sale, which is required by the state. She has asked the Hoidale Co. to give her a price on putting a new pump and replacing that part, but she has not received the information yet.

She reported that even though it was small, 2022 was the first year that the county had made a profit on selling fuel – $34.

Ongoing expenses for the airport include having the pump serviced for $500 per service call and $89 per month to the company that handles the credit card transactions plus a transaction fee for each sale. She told the commissioners that there was $20,000 in the special equipment reserve for the airport.

She also reported that the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) did not approve a grant application the county made last fall to hire a company to complete a business plan for the airport. However, she reapplied for the $50,000 grant, and the notification of acceptance should come this week. The match for the grant will be 5% with the state paying 95%.

Commissioner Jason Hightower asked if Linn County was not going to fund the airport, what is the point of having a plan?

Commission Chair Danny McCullough asked how many lots were available to buy at the airport. She said 23, eight of which have been sold.

McCullough suggested that maybe the covenants in the sale contract could be amended to provide a stipulation that buyers had a time limit to build instead of just holding onto the land.

Jessica Hightower said that one of the lot holders at the airport was waiting for the county to do some development work out there before they built anything.

She said that there were also tax implications for the landowners because they had to pay Pleasanton city and school district taxes as well as the county tax. She explained that the airport was in the city limits on an island that is annexed by the city.

According to the airport manager, when the airport was built it was a partnership between the Pleasanton, Linn County and the state of Kansas. Since it is owned by the county, current grants only recognize the county as the actual owner.

Commissioner Hightower asked, “How does this continue to not be a black hole?”

Johnson talked about the Miami County Airport that has a restaurant and hangars for the airplanes. He said that county administrator told him that profits there just depended on where they buy their fuel.

Jessica Hightower said that most airports had hangars that they leased .

Commissioner Hightower said that for airports to break even, they had to have invested a lot of money over the years.

Johnson explained that the Miami County Airport had originally been started by the cities of Osawatomie and Paola, then it was run by an airport association and then Miami County took it over

Jessica Hightower told them commissioners that at present the main users of the Linn County airport and fuel there were students from a Wisconsin training school, who stopped to refuel there, and crop duster planes.

McCullough said that right now the airport was costing Linn County a lot of money.

“We need a draw,” said the airport manager. Currently the 70-by-70-foot lots were selling for $20,000. That size lot, because of the 10-foot setbacks on all sides allowed owners to build 50-by-50-foot buildings.

McCullough questioned whether the county could find a developer to develop that area. He also asked about the cost for the airport road that was recently built and whether the county was actively trying to sell lots.

Jessica Hightower said the road cost $43,000. She also said that she has five or six inquiries a year about the lots, but when she explained that they were selling them, not leasing them, those people did not call back..

Johnson asked that the airport committee come to meet with the commissioners for a workshop. Jessica Hightower said that they were meeting Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. McCullough said he would try to attend.

Johnson said he would like the committee to come in and meet with the commissioners so they could talk about it.

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