No decision made on airport studies as county waits for cities to agree on site

Residents and officials take a look at the results of a site selection study for a possible new Leavenworth County airport at a workshop at the Lansing Community Center on Wednesday, May 11. Enlarge photo

February 23, 2012, 9:43 a.m. Updated: 28 February 2012, 1:30 p.m.

Airport studies

Past coverage of studies into a possible Leavenworth County airport:

Jan. 13, 2012: County invites cities to discuss project

Aug. 17, 2011: Firm recommends site near Lansing

May 18, 2011: Three possible sites announced

— Officials emerged from a study session Wednesday without reaching a decision on how to move forward with studies looking into a possible new public Leavenworth County airport.

One county commissioner said he would be hesitant to support more studies if the county’s cities, especially Lansing and Leavenworth, are unable to agree on a location for the possible airport.

“If the two biggest dogs in the fight can’t decide where they want it, I sure don’t want to be in the middle of that,” Commissioner John Flower said.

Officials from the county and four of its cities, including Basehor and Tonganoxie, attended the session at the Leavenworth County Courthouse on Wednesday.

Patrick Taylor of Coffman Associates, a consulting firm that has conducted two previous studies into a possible airport for the county, told officials at the session that the county and its cities had until May 1 to apply for the next round of Federal Aviation Administration grants to fund two further required studies. But before that can happen, the county, one of its cities or some other public entity must step forward as a sponsor of the project, and that sponsor must pick one of two proposed sites to study further.

Taylor said the county was likely between five and eight years away from opening an airport if it decided to construct one.

The consulting firm last summer recommended a site near 127th Street and Gilman Road just east of Lansing after completing a site selection study. But city of Leavenworth officials said Wednesday they may prefer the firm’s second-ranked site, which is off Coffin Road west of Fort Leavenworth and north of Leavenworth.

Leavenworth Mayor Mark Preisinger said the northern location would lend itself more easily to use by people traveling to Fort Leavenworth and Leavenworth.

“We think if it’s anyplace other than Coffin Road, then it’s going to choke off Leavenworth,” Preisinger said.

Flower noted, though, that the county has discussed combining an airport with an industrial park if plans move forward, and he said the location near Lansing, closer to the Kansas City area, would provide more potential for that.

“You have to ask yourself, what industry would want to be north of Leavenworth?” Flower said.

He said he hoped that the county’s cities could come to a consensus on a location to study further, realizing that more economic development would help the entire county. But he said that if the cities could not agree, he would not want the county to support the project going forward, and it could be up to one of the cities to sponsor and fund further studies.

Tonganoxie city administrator Mike Yanez noted that the location near Lansing would be located closer to development in Kansas City, Kan.

“It’d be nice to bring Wyandotte County dollars into our airport as well,” Yanez said.

Taylor said one reason his firm recommended the location near Lansing was because it would likely be more convenient for shipping trucks to access from Interstate 70 to the south.

Lansing city administrator Mike Smith said the city’s council had not yet come to a decision on how and whether to support further airport studies.

At the end of the meeting, Flower suggested that the cities meet again to discuss their preferences near the end of March.

County commissioners have said they would not spend any county funds to acquire property or begin construction on an airport without putting the issue up for a county-wide vote. They repeated that pledge Wednesday.

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