Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2011

After study, dream of airport a little bit closer to reality

August 18, 2011

A spot just east of Lansing is the recommended site for a possible future Leavenworth County airport after a consulting firm released the results of a nearly yearlong study.

Coffman Associates, a Lee’s Summit, Mo., airport consulting firm, named a spot near 127th Street and Gilman Road along the eastern edge of Lansing as its recommended site. The firm released the results in a meeting Aug. 10 with officials from the county and its cities. 

Completion of the firm’s site selection study still leaves the county years away from a decision on whether to construct an airport, said Mike Dmyterko, project manager for Coffman Associates. County commissioners pledged last year that they would not make a final decision on the airport until the issue went up for a countywide vote. Dmyterko said that moment was likely still three to four years off, if the county moves ahead with the planning process.

First, Dmyterko said, his company plans to present its findings to government bodies throughout the county, to give leaders and residents a chance to look over the results.

“As soon as we can basically get on their agendas, we’re just going to go around, make a whirlwind tour and make a presentation to the councils of each associated city and the county commission,” Dmyterko said.

The Gilman Road location was one of three possible airport sites named by Coffman in May. Its proximity to Kansas Highway 7 and U.S. Highway 24-40 was a strength that helped it outrank other contending sites, Dmyterko said.

“Gilman Road has great access,” Dmyterko said. “That’s the best thing it has going for it.”

That access is important, he said, because of the county’s desire to combine an airport with a new industrial park. 

The Gilman Road area’s topography also was more suited for an airport than some other sites considered, Dmyterko said. An airport there would possibly conflict with the airspaces associated with several nearby private airfields, he said, presenting one problem.

“It’s definitely not a slam dunk at this point,” Dmyterko said.

After Coffman presents its findings to the county and its cities, the next step will be to name a sponsor of the airport project — most likely Leavenworth County itself, Dmyterko said. The project would then be eligible for Federal Aviation Administration grants to conduct further required studies. Naming a sponsor for the project would not signal a commitment to construct an airport, Dmyterko said.

County Commissioner John Flower said a plan previously put forth by the county was to complete the remaining studies required by the FAA, then to put the decision to build an airport up for a vote before purchasing any property for the project. Though commissioners will not continue down the path of planning if either study indicates that an airport would not be viable, he said.

“If one of these studies turns negative, we’re done,” he said. “It will never go to a vote.”

The FAA would pay for 95 percent of the cost of the further studies, as it did for the site selection study just completed. The remaining studies required are a 20-year master plan for the airport’s development and an environmental assessment. 

Full results of the study are available at leavenworthcounty.airport.com.

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