MAHASKA COUNTY — The Mahaska County Board of Supervisors met recently with representatives from the South Central Regional Airport.
The talks again turned to options for 220th Street — whether to close or relocate the street or do something else entirely.
SCRAA consultant Jerry Searle said the effort has been continually made to minimize the potential impact on the road network, amongst other things.
“One of our primary concerns was not to impact farmsteads,” he said, “or require the relocation of a farmstead or an acreage or a residential property or that kind of operation.”
Searle said there was an idea to take the road and go around the end of the proposed runway
“As long as it’s outside the runway safety area, we can accommodate, then, the slow-moving farm vehicles around the end of that runway,” he said. “So whether we call it a disconnect of 220th, an airport service road, we recognize what is expressed by the public is farm equipment that not only is slow-moving but also has a lot of weight.”
The FAA, Searle said, was agreeable to that option, hence its placement in the environmental assessment “as an acceptable farm mitigation for the concern that was expressed by the public.”
Pella City Manager Michael Nardini said some options included moving the airport location about a half mile further north.
“From our standpoint, what that amounts to really is a new site. Environmental assessments take a significant amount of time,” he said. “When we started the environmental assessment for this project, it was July 1, 2013 because we came to the supervisors at that time. The FAA approved the environmental assessment in June of 2017, so it was about four years to conduct an environmental assessment in the process.”
The complete process, Nardini said would take even longer.
“The key issue for the cities with a new site, is when you look at that extended period of time, at least four years for an environmental assessment, potentially longer if you have to do aerospace requirements on top to that,” he said. “You can set the site the key issue is we have to maintain our existing airport and that’s an additional expenditure on the project that airports require maintenance and those would be additional costs for the cities on that, and that would be the first concern.”
Nardini reviewed the to-do list the group had discussed. He said Searle would contact the FAA for an opinion on potentially using 235th Street as a farm to market road. Searle will also contact the FAA about a farm-to-market designation on the airport service road.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Gronendyk would contact the county engineering department about 220th Street. Additionally, Nardini asked the supervisors to let himself and Oskaloosa City Manager Michael Schrock know the county’s position on contributing financially to making 235th a farm to market road.
Schrock said the cities would need to know, in general terms, if the county’s financial participation would be completely off the table or if there would be some willingness to participate.
“There will be a number of impacts if we have to open up studies again and there could be delays. So just want to understand what the county is thinking there,” he said. “That way we can take that back to the council and say there is a funding partnership or there is not.”
During public comments, Mahaska County resident John Bandstra said it seemed to him that with the discussion of the airport, safety was an issue that needed to be addressed.
“And I think going forward the staff and the members of the South Central [Regional Airport] Agency need to be more prudent in their decisions and consider all things so we don’t end up like this again,” he said.
Mahaska County resident John DeRooi also voiced his dissent with regard to the airport, possible road relocation.
The airport is not necessary at all, DeRooi said, and a vote should have been brought to the people of Mahaska County.
“I wish you’d bring this out to [the] public. “The Board of Supervisors dealing with it now. You’re not done with us, the farmers,” he said. “It won’t proceed.”