by Austin Nichols
The K-State Collegian
September 12, 2012
City commissioners vote 5-0 to approve spending on multimillion-dollar airport expansion. In the first step toward the expansion of Manhattan Regional Airport, city commissioners voted unanimously (5-0) yesterday to begin the multimillion-dollar project.
The expansion plan looks to be a six-year process, and the reason for the special city commission meeting Tuesday night was to vote on the airport general aviation apron. An apron, also known as the ramp, is the paved area around the airport and hangars where aircraft load or unload, park, refuel and take on passengers.
Peter Van Kuren, Manhattan Regional Airport Director, presented the commissioners and mayor with a presentation of the expansion project and the details of the aviation apron that were up for vote. The first step of the expansion project was directed towards the fixed-base operator. As Van Kuren explained, the FBO is a commercial business employed by the airport to provide support services.
“The FBO’s function is primarily to provide fuel, but it’s providing services to aircraft and pilots that are operating in and out of the airport,” Van Kuren said. “The FBO is providing a service on the airport for any type of aeronautical type of function.”
The fixed-base operator also provides a taxi service for airplanes along with parking spaces for those planes.
It is not the airlines that are insisting the FBO be expanded. This mandate is coming from the Transportation Security Administration, which asserts that the airport has a responsibility to keep commercial passengers away from citizens flying their own general aircrafts.
Van Kuren said that the way the FBO is currently set up allows a high rate of intermingling between commercial and private aircraft, causing the system to be potentially unsafe for everyone involved.??The reason the apron was passed, according to commissioner Wynn Butler, was that the city was able to sell $300,000 worth of dirt sitting at the end of the runway. The apron accounts for only a portion of the total cost of the expansion project.
“That $300,000 funded 90 percent of the apron that was passed,” Butler said.
Tuesday, the commission agreed to pay an additional $10,000.
“We are going to get a return on that $10,000,” Butler said.
The overall cost of the project will reach up to $50 million. Butler has no problem with the building of the terminal, but he is worried about the order of the phasing. He said that it doesn’t make sense to build a new terminal to attract more customers and airlines but then be turned down by the airlines because the runway isn’t safe.
Overall, the expansion project will require a lot of money from the city to match the FAA grant that is the majority of the funding for the project.
Sometime in 2013, the city will be responsible for around $3,400,000 for the parking phase of the project. Mayor Pro Tem John Matta said that eventually the airport will have to start charging people to park just to help cover the high costs associated with the expansion project.
“Overall I think it’s a good plan. The problem is, it’s going to take a lot of funding as we keep going,” Matta said. “We’re going to have to charge people for parking.”
Matta believes that if the extension of a half-percent sales tax proposed by the commission passes in November, it can be a good source of income for the city to help cover the costs the project will demand over the next couple of years.
The domino effect, as Butler referred to it, is what concerns him about the overall expansion project. He said he is fine with the apron that was passed but won’t vote to pass a surprise $2 million because of the debt Manhattan is already facing.
“The phasing concerns me and, of course, always the funding. What we’ve done so far, it’s OK. We can handle that,” Butler said. “We have a $279 million city debt. I’m not going to vote for $50 million more of bonds on top of that. We’re not hitting $300 million if I can prevent it.”
The expansion will have no effect on the construction on Kansas Highway 18.
The commissioners voted to accept the engineer’s opinion of probable cost in the amount of $1,700,406, authorize the mayor and city clerk to execute a construction contract in the amount of $1,666,859.02 with Dondlinger and Sons
Construction Co. Inc. of Wichita, authorize the mayor and city clerk to execute task order No. 5 in the amount of $203,812.50 with Mead and Hunt Inc. of Madison, Wis., for construction administration of the project and to accept the federal grant offer from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the amount of $1,890,734.
The other topic of discussion in the special city commission meeting was a work session item on the Metropolitan Planning Organization which is being overseen by the Kansas Department of Transportation. The MPO is a regional planning committee that Manhattan is required by the federal government to join.
Since Manhattan is the major city in the region and will produce the majority of the budget for the MPO, the city has the opportunity to decide who they want to join them on the regional planning board.
The hourlong dicussion was over which one of two regional maps suits Manhattan better for their needs. Both maps include Riley County, Wamego and potentially Ogden as seat holders on the board for the region. One map, however, includes Fort Riley, Junction City and Pottawatomie county, while the other smaller map does not include those areas.
The commissioners seemed to be split on which regional map they will choose.
Matta and Butler showed interest in the smaller of the two maps while Mayor Loren Pepperd and Commissioner Jim Sherow favored the larger map. Commissioner Richard Jankovich looks to be the swing vote in the debate.
Matta and Butler would like to see more Manhattan officials on the board and worry that there won’t be enough local control on the planning committee.
Sherow and Pepperd both believe that Manhattan’s neighbors should be included and that regional services should be afforded to all the cities and counties on their regional map.