Charlene Sims, Journal staff
Pleasanton resident provides more airport history to county
A Pleasanton man who said he had been a long-time opponent of the Linn County airport gave county commissioners additional information about the project on Monday. (Journal file photo)
MOUND CITY – As the Linn County Commission and county staff continue to unravel the sometimes obscure history of the county-owned airport southeast of Pleasanton, they heard from a person who opposed the project early on.
During the commission’s regular meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, rural Pleasanton resident Jim Martin gave the commission copies of the agreement between the county and the city, which included information that the airport would be deeded over to the city after a grant was received.
He asked the commissioners how it was that he had a copy of this contract and the county did not have one. He also asked how one commission can bind that kind of responsibility to other commissions in the future.
Commissioner Jason Hightower said that the commission is bigger than any one of its members, and when they are elected and take the oath they become the managers of the county.
Every business, every entity has managers who are always dealing with problems someone else created, he said. It is not different for commissioners than it is for anybody else in other businesses.
During the meeting, Planning and Zoning Director Darin Wilson brought out the only information he could find about the airport. In the county commission minutes, it showed that the conditional use permit (CUP) came before the county commissioners after it was approved by the planning commission but it did not show how many members of the planning commission voted for it.
The minutes showed that no action was taken on the CUP by the county commissioners.
Martin said that, because he and a group of his neighbors including Rick Thomas had spent more than $12,000 in legal fees trying to fight the airport in 2008, he had been contacted over the weekend to provide some information.
He told the commissioners that the airport had been pushed down the residents throats by the county commission, planning commission, and even County Counselor Gary Thompson.
Thompson told Martin that, as county counselor who does the commission’s bidding, he had only done legal work on it and did not promote it.
When Martin brought up his opinion about grants, Commissioner Jim Johnson started off on other issues with grants and the airport, the health department, the jail and school resource officers (SRO).
Martin walked away from the podium while the commissioners argued among themselves about these issues. McCullough brought the focus back to Martin’s presentation, but it quickly went back to Johnson talking about other issues.
When Martin became the focus of attention again, he said that he had a lot of documentation if the commissioners needed it. He pointed out that it does say in the information that the airport would not cost the taxpayers any money.
Commissioner Jim Johnson did bring up the issue of $200,000 lights being purchased with a grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) several years ago and never being used. He said that KDOT had paid $170,000 for the lights and the county had spent $30,000.
Jessica Hightower said that both the Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPI) lights and the solar lights had been purchased with that grant and the solar lights were being used.
PAPI 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.
McCullough said that the airport committee had determined that the PAPI lights purchased were not appropriate for the size of the Linn County Airport. He said that the airport committee suggested that the county should try to sell the PAPI lights.
“You’ve got expenses out there that the public was lied to about,” said Martin. They knew what they were going to do. They just shoved it down our throats.”
Economic Development Director Jessica Hightower said that the airport is not qualified to be a Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) airport because the county has done things that are not allowed in FAA regulations. One of those things are the selling of lots at the airport. Most FAA airports receive funding from the FAA for operational costs. It comes from the fuel tax that the pilot’s pay when they fill up their planes.
Thompson said that right now there are two complications that may interfere with the county getting a tax exemption for the airport. One is that the county rents out the hay ground there, and the other is that the county is holding those lots for resale. The county is not using them for a county purpose.
The commissioners discussed whether to repair the pump on the fuel tank or wait and see if the county gets the grant before making any decisions. The county will still be required to clean off the runway for right now.