Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BOCC gives nod to airport study

A World War I doughboy statue stands outside the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

A World War I doughboy statue stands outside the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

September 17, 2008

The possibility of a regional airport in the county just took another step toward becoming a reality.

On Thursday, the Leavenworth County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to accept the Leavenworth County Air and Business Park committee's choice of Coffman and Associates as the firm that will conduct a justification study to determine if a regional airport is needed in the county. The committee will meet with representatives of the airport consulting firm to hash out the scope of work and determine the price of the study before bringing a contract back to the commission for approval.

County Commissioner J.C. Tellefson emphasized that this was just an initial study to see if the plan for the airport has any legs to stand on and not an approval of the airport.

"The real bottom line is that we don't know all of the costs yet," Tellefson said. "We're just looking to see if we can justify an airport. "

Greg Kaaz, chairman of the committee, said during the meeting that it has become more difficult to get in and out of Sherman Airfield in Fort Leavenworth since Sept. 11, 2001. Plus, the City of Leavenworth's agreement with the fort allows the military to lock the city out of using the airport at anytime.

A Leavenworth County airport would allow county entities to develop around the airport, which is something that is not allowed at the fort.

The Federal Aviation Administration can reimburse the county for up to 95 percent of the development of the airport, but would not reimburse county entities for any economic development around the airport. The FAA reimbursement money is also not guaranteed to come in at such a high percentage.

Commissioner Tellefson said that the full reimbursement was the only way the project would happen.

"Let face it, if we don't have the 95 percent participation from the FAA there is no way on God's green earth I am going to support doing this," Tellefson said "We aren't going to build an airport on the county's budget. We're just not going to do this."

Kaaz answered some questions posed by county residents who wanted the money to be spent on developing county infrastructure instead of an airport.

"With the regional airport, we are looking at it as a long-term goal. It won't happen in the next five or six years if at all," Kaaz said. "The only way it will ever be built is if there was a cost sharing between the FAA and the sponsor."

In other business the commission:

¢ Tabled a request by Keyta Kelly, county counselor-at-large to have county employees who volunteered to portray characters during the December Christmas Open House be paid that day instead of taking a vacation day.

The commission was a little apprehensive to pay for the employee's workday when they wouldn't be working the whole day. Tellefson said, "the operative word is volunteer."

"I appreciate everything that everyone is doing to this regard, but I also agree with (County Counselor David Van Parys') decision that this opens up a situation by which I am going to volunteer to do this and I want to get paid."

Kelly said this request was only for a small number of volunteers who will be doing most of the legwork during the open house and will be at the courthouse during regular business hours.

Commissioner Dean Oroke said if the county was going to have to continue to pay more into this project the county should just cancel it and give back the grant money given to them by the state.

"It's a benefit for the citizens of Leavenworth County as it has been in the past," Kelly said. If you are willing to take that away it's no skin off my back."

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