The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

August 17, 2012

Panel approves airport’s final layout, but decisions on projects will wait

PITTSBURG, Kan. — After three years of input by airport users and work by a special committee, the city has approved an airport layout plan to be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration for consideration.

Should the FAA sign off on the layout, what the city ultimately will choose as priorities to fund remains undecided.

Of the some $3.6 million in projects, the FAA would pick up 90 percent of the cost while the city would pick up the remaining 10 percent.

The steps toward an airport master plan started in 2009 with a series of meetings and survey of needs with the airport users. With that information and data added to studies by Professional Engineering Consultants and H.W. Lochner, a draft layout plan was created.

Proposed projects include a parallel taxiway, the development of a westside hangar and a 600-foot runway extension, among other things. As many as 20 to 25 airplanes land at the airport each day.

The firms received FAA’s final comments on the draft last month, made necessary changes and submitted it for the City Commission’s approval Tuesday. It was met with mixed reviews, with the panel questioning the need for various elements.

The proposed plan would require a 10-year phased approach. The first year would include the construction of a parallel taxiway to runway 16-34 and the removal of a city-owned hangar that would be in its path. The FAA would pay for most of the taxiway, as well as the demolition of the hangar and apron surrounding the new taxiway. The cost to the city for that portion of the project would be $400,000.

Subsequent years would include the addition of self-serve fuel tanks; rehabilitation of the taxi lane and construction of an eight-unit hangar to the west; joint/crack seal and overlay; and the addition of 600 feet of runway.

In addition, the westside development would require a new entrance road and gateway in order to be fully functional, the firms reported. Environmental mitigation also would be required because of the presence of threatened and endangered species.

City Commissioner Michael Gray questioned whether the plan’s parallel taxiways could be shortened to alleviate the cost, and Commissioner Patrick O’Bryan questioned how badly the parallel taxiways were needed. On surveys of airport users, including pilots affiliated with large local corporations, taxiways were ranked high on the list.

“This parallel taxiway has been on the agenda for as long as I’ve been here, and many years longer,” O’Bryan said. “I’ve asked the questions before, ‘Have we had any near misses? Have we had problems with this?’ The answer has always been ‘No.’”

He also said that “whatever they give us, we have to maintain,” referring to FAA funding and the potential for the city to incur future repair or rehabilitation costs on any new construction.

“I think we have to be careful with this kind of stuff,” O’Bryan said. “If it’s not a safety issue, I think it’s the wrong way to go. When you don’t have a plethora of traffic on this runway, it’s not like you have to pull over in the ditch to allow someone else to land. I just wanted to voice my concern and my hesitation for moving forward with this.”

Gray echoed O’Bryan’s statements, advising the city to proceed with caution in committing to the airport projects.

When the city first embarked on the FAA project, Public Works Director Bill Beasley anticipated beginning construction on some elements in 2012 to 2014. Delays were caused by a new electronic filing procedure implemented by the FAA.

City Commissioner Marty Beezley expressed concern that the city was near the top of its bonding authority and no money had been budgeted. Should the FAA approve the projects, but the city come up short of money, the city would have to pass on the FAA funding, she said.

Fence

Projects already completed at the airport include a wildlife fence designed to keep deer out. An ordinance that restricts the height of structures near the airport in order to protect the airspace already is on the books.

 

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