FAA approves grant for airport site study
After learning the Federal Aviation Administration approved a grant for a site selection study for a new general aviation airport in the county, Leavenworth County commissioners started considering the next step.
Entwined in that discussion was what voice county residents should have in the step-by-step processes needed to move a possible airport forward.
The discussion started when Leavenworth County Administrator Heather Morgan told commissioners Thursday she received notification the FAA approved a grant not to exceed $149,320 to pay for a study of possible sites for a new airport. The county’s share of the required $7,500 local match is $4,200.
The commission will consider formally accepting the grant Thursday after County Counselor David Van Parys returns from vacation and reviews the grant agreement.
With the news of the FAA grant, Commissioner Clyde Graeber asked his fellow commissioners what would be the next step in a possible new airport’s development. He reminded them the commission promised not to spend more money toward a new airport beyond the site selection study after resident Irene Tork presented in February a valid petition asking the question of funding an airport be put to county voters.
County residents Dewey Gillett and Louis Klemp asked the question a different way Monday. They wanted to know how many more checks the county would write before the airport question was put to county voters.
Commissioners’ initial response was that the county would fund nothing beyond the site study without voter approval. They acknowledged, however, an environmental impact study, master plan and an economic assessment of an airport and adjoining business park would have to be done before informed decisions could be made about the need for a new facility.
But County Clerk Janet Klasinski told commissioners Monday state election laws complicated the airport referendum strategy.
State statute allowed local jurisdictions to have yes-or-no bond authorization questions on primary or general election ballots, but forbid advisory questions such as “should the county spend money to study aspects of an airport,” Klasinski said. The county could have such an election on its own, but at the cost about $30,000. It could even have one on the date of a primary or general election if separate voting sites were established 250 feet or more from regular polling sites, she said.
Morgan said the county wouldn’t know the cost of land or construction to place on a bond issue until all the required studies were completed.
Commissioners John Flower and J.C. Tellefson agreed. They estimated the environmental impact study and master plan would cost the county only about $5,000 each because the FAA would pay for 95 percent of the studies.
An airport/business park economic feasibility study, which would receive no FAA grant funding, would cost about $150,000, Flower estimated. But he said Lansing, Leavenworth and other county partners could reduce the county’s share of that cost to about $50,000.
All decisions to move forward with the studies would be made in open session with public involvement, Flower said. And he said county residents would eventually made the decision on an airport.
“I can’t count the number of times that this commission has said we will put it to a vote before one spade of dirt is dug, before one inch of land is purchased,” he said.