March 28, 2013

Regional airport agency hears from public

The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — At Tuesday’s meeting of the South Central Regional Airport Agency in Oskaloosa City Hall, members of the agency heard from the public.

At the onset of the “Call to the public” portion of the meeting, SCRAA Chairman Jim Hansen provided background on the regional airport project. He said the project has been narrowed down to three potential sites. The Federal Aviation Administration recently gave airspace approval, which is a preliminary approval of those sites, said Hansen.

The next step for the SCRAA will be to choose a primary and secondary site. Then environmental studies and master planning will occur, said Hansen, which is an approximately 18- to 24-month process.

A rating system developed by Snyder & Associates will then be used in order to assess 30 or so different factors associated with the sites, said Hansen. These factors will be examined as far as how they are weighted when applied to these sites, Hansen said.

When a primary site is determined, property appraisal would begin and a discussion regarding acquisition would begin, said Hansen.

Hansen also told those attending Tuesday’s meeting that the SCRAA was formed through a 28E agreement between the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa, as well as Mahaska County. The SCRAA is in charge of developing, building and running a regional airport, Hansen said, adding that it is not up to the SCRAA to decide whether there will be a regional airport. It is up to the SCRAA to decide where that airport will be and how it will be configured, said Hansen.

Larry Van Maanen, of Leighton, was the first to speak during the call to the public. Larry asked if a cost benefit analysis for the regional airport had been done and if it has been, could it be published.

Hansen said a cost benefit analysis is not part of the SCRAA’s duty. It would be up to the cities of Oskaloosa, Pella and Mahaska County to do this, said Hansen, adding that he did not know if it had been done.

Larry also asked if local businesses had been polled as to whether they are for or against a regional airport.

Tim Van Maanen, of Leighton, also spoke during the call to the public. Tim said there was a vote on the regional airport idea a few years ago that voted it down. Tim said he believes the people of Mahaska and Marion counties need a vote on the matter.

Jimmy Carter, of Oskaloosa, said he would like to see a vote on the regional airport, as well. He also cited the result of the previous vote on the matter.

Judd Van Gorp, of Pella, asked Pella City Administrator Mike Nardini why Pella needs a regional airport.

Nardini said the Pella Airport has been ruled a “safety issue” by the FAA, which is why they are pursuing a new airport.

Oskaloosa City Manager Michael Schrock Jr. pointed to a presentation available on the Web sites for the cities of Oskaloosa and Pella. He said this presentation explains some of the bullet points as to why the two communities would be interested in the project. Schrock said the project is a “good partnership opportunity.”

SCRAA member Joe Warrick said the opportunity for a regional approach is a benefit to the area, with the airport being one component.

Nardini said he agreed with what Schrock and Warrick had said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Tom Rielly, of Oskaloosa, said he supports the regional airport, calling it “good government.” He said the area needs to work on a “regionalized basis.” Rielly also expressed concern for finding answers to regional airport project questions.

Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Doland said he had questions about funding, roads and eminent domain associated with the regional airport project. He said that, during his campaign for Mahaska County Supervisor, he sent out 3,600 questionnaires asking people if they would support the use of eminent domain for an airport. Doland said he got about 300 of these questionnaires back with 2 supporting eminent domain for an airport. Doland also said he would like more notification about meetings, as well.

In other business, the SCRAA:

• Approved setting April 18 at 6 p.m. for an informational meeting with the public. Whether the meeting will be in Pella or Oskaloosa was not determined at Tuesday’s SCRAA meeting.

• Approved creating SCRAA committees including a Communications Committee and Rating Committee.

• Discussed assigning items to SCRAA committees.

• Approved sending the SCRAA chairman and vice chairman to attend the 2013 Iowa Aviation Conference.


Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at news2@oskyherald.com.