117.5 acres purchased for South Central Regional Airport

OSKALOOSA — The South Central Regional Airport Agency spent $1.7 million as they continue to acquire land for a proposed regional airport near Leighton.

The South Central Regional Airport Agency (SCRAA) purchased a total of 117.52 acres in Mahaska County from trustees Ronald and Carol Van Heukelom, Evelyn Van Heukelom, Fredrick Wohlstein, Karen Wohlstein, John Hiemstra and Mary Hiemstra on May 14.

The purchase agreement states 50 percent of payment is due at closing, while the remaining balance is due by Jan. 5, 2021. It was approved by the SCRAA board during a meeting on May 27 with a vote of 4-1.

SCRAA Executive Committee Member John Bandstra voted down the purchase agreement. Bandstra said he does not support the decision because of ongoing court cases between the City of Oskaloosa, Mahaska County and local landowners.

“Until legal issues are resolved in the courts, I don’t think we should be purchasing land,” said Bandstra.

This is the second public land purchase for the airport. In December, the City of Pella and the City of Oskaloosa made the first purchase, that purchase for $1.1 million, on behalf of the SCRAA.

According to Pella City Administrator Mike Nardini, Pella’s share of that purchase totaled $58,596.50, while the City of Oskaloosa was responsible for the remainder of the purchase. The purchase included 78.39 acres of land in Mahaska County, and Bandstra voted it down as well for the same reason.

Last week, the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors and members of the SCRAA board held a work session to discuss a service road off Highway 163 on 220th Street between Oskaloosa and Pella. Bandstra also said he does not support the service road, stating there are multiple safety issues in the area that need to be addressed.

“If you were to explore the number of fatal accidents between Independence Avenue and 220th Street, they are much greater than they have been at either airport,” Bandstra told the Herald. “Most of the accidents in this area involve ag equipment.”

Bandstra said he encourages community members of both cities to speak to their respective council members regarding their stance on the airport. He hopes it will create more conversation surrounding these issues.

The SCRAA is currently in the land-acquisition phase to construct a 580-plus acre airport, which would be located north of Highway 163 and northwest of Oskaloosa. The project is a joint venture via a 28E Agreement with the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa, as well as Mahaska County

Emily Hawk can be reached at 641-672-2581 or by email at ehawk@oskyherald.com.

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