To the Editor/Friends:
As Mayor, and as councilman before that, I’ve been involved with the airport discussion for many years. After much study and hard work on many people’s parts, we are now at a key point in the process. Mahaska County voters will go to the polls to select two new Supervisors. Two of the candidates support the project and two do not.
Recently, those opposed to this project have published a letter from Dave Swenson which draws the conclusion that the costs outweigh the benefits of this project. He admits in his letter that he has done no study of the project and has not reviewed any information about it. I, along with others, respectfully disagree with Mr. Swenson’s conclusions.
Jerry Searle is an aviation engineer that has been involved with the development of dozens of airports throughout Iowa in his 30-plus year career. His unmatched experience in Iowa aviation was the primary reason he was chosen to lead the development process of our airport. Jerry provided the following commentary.
David Krutzfeldt, Mayor
A Benefit-Cost Analysis (“BCA”) of the proposed airport was not required by the FAA, since the undertaking was to "Replace" the existing Pella Municipal Airport.
However, prior to the decision to replace the existing airport, the FAA required that I prepare an in-depth analysis of the existing Pella airport. That analysis was presented in Chapter Five of the 2010 Pella Airport Feasibility Study. (Dated January 2010)
The study first considered a "Full Build" C-II scenario at the existing Pella airport. Due to site constraints, it was determined that it would not be reasonable to do a Full Build scenario. We were then instructed to develop a "Limited Build" scenario. The limited build scenario provided an ultimate runway length of 5,500 feet. But, the airport environs were such, that lower approach minima (200'-1/2 mile) could not be attained.
We then prepared an estimate of cost to construct the "Limited Build" scenario at the existing Pella airport. The Total "Limited Build" cost was $36,933,560. Please note that this scenario provided a maximum runway length of 5,500 feet and approach minima comparable to what exists today.
Pella currently does not have 5,500 feet of runway usable in both directions. The thresholds are displaced on each end. Given the cost of the "Limited Build" scenario and the fact that the Pella airport would still be a constrained facility, the City decided to consider an alternative site.
We were instructed to begin a site search that resulted in the Otley site being recommended for further study. The Airport Layout Plan for the Otley site was given conditional approval by FAA.
Shortly thereafter, a joint Pella/Oskaloosa initiative was considered a reasonable alternative and you know the rest of the story.
For the record, I have done a BCA for the proposed parallel runway at Des Moines International where it was concluded that the benefit extended did not exceed the cost. I did the BCA for a $30 million investment in the Council Bluffs Airport where it was determined that the benefit would exceed the cost. The same was the case in Sioux County where a favorable benefit-cost determination was made based on FAA methodology. The BCA was necessary in Sioux County since we were adding capacity to the system. If capacity was being added to the system that would require $5 million of FAA discretionary funding.
I believe I understand where Mr. Swenson is coming from. He is considering the cost to the user (I assume only travel cost to an alternative airport) that has an existing airport infrastructure that is comparable to the proposed South Central Regional Airport "Full Build" scenario (6,700'; 200-1/2 mile). To consider comparable cost of using an alternative airport, more than just transportation costs have to be included. Due to the fact that this is a replacement airport, no BCA was required by the FAA to support the project.
In summary, the proposed action is to replace the existing Pella Airport and take advantage of the opportunity to reduce the number of system airports while providing a facility that can accommodate existing aeronautical demand safely and efficiently.