Judd Claussen, project engineer from Phelps Engineering and Paul Greeley of the county planning department, review the final development plan and plat for the Hampton Inn project with the Johnson County Airport Commission in the May 24 meeting. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Johnson County Airport Commission (JCAC) met on May 24 and considered final development plans for the Hampton Inn, a tenant request for rent abatement and increases for water services. Members were also updated on storm damage recovery efforts and the ongoing effort to keep water out of the basement.
Unexpected items found underground
Excavation work is in progress on the grounds surrounding the building at One New Century Plaza.
The commission had approved this work as part of an effort to address the problem of water leaking into the basement of the building.
The landscaping is being dug up and replaced with the intent of diverting rainwater away from the building and its leaky basement.
“We found a number of items that were unexpected,” said Aaron Otto, executive director.
Crews found a manhole cover buried about three feet underground. It led to large concrete box.
They also discovered a concrete cut under the stairs of the main entrance that had created a hollow space. That space was collecting a significant amount of water.
Otto said once it was dug out, it drained water for an hour. It’s now been drained and sealed.
“We do not know what its purpose was originally,” Otto said.
Otto described the discoveries as a “very bizarre piece of history” and said that sealing them up would hopefully lead to a drier basement.
The final development plan and plat for the Hampton Inn in Gardner was presented to commission.
Gardner has already approved the plan and plat, however state statute also requires approval of the county for any structure within one mile of an airport.
The commission discussion focused on the lights to be installed on the roof and parking lots.
Members were concerned with the possibility that lights on the ground could be confusing to pilots landing in poor visibility conditions.
Paul Greeley, of the county planning department, presented a review the final development plan and plat.
Judd Claussen, project engineer from Phelps Engineering, displayed site plan maps and specifications of all the lighting used.
The parking lot lights are shielded so that the only light seen from above is the light on the ground.
John Wittenborn, JCAC secretary, said that it wasn’t only the installed lights that could potentially be a problem for pilots but also automobile headlights of traffic moving in and out.
It was mentioned that this was not unprecedented and Wal-Mart was cited.
Wittenborn said “I know, that’s why I voted against it.”
In the end, a motion was made to approve the final development plan and plat for Hampton Inn, which carried with none opposed.
This is a recommendation for approval to the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners, who grant or deny final approval.
Storm damage update
Staff continues to work on recovery from the March 6 storm that severely damaged hangars at Johnson County Executive Airport.
Larry Peet, deputy director, told commission that the design/bid/build process for the Tango hangar is underway and detailed a projected timeline.
Bids will be collected and presented to the BOCC on August 23.
The selected contractor would begin construction in September.
Peet said the target date for tenant occupancy was January 2018.
In the financial report, it was reported that JCAC is losing about $20,000 in revenue per month due to rent abatement that has been applied to tenants of destroyed hangars.
JCAC has also been covering repair expenses while waiting for reimbursements from insurance.
Water service rates
At the April 26 JCAC meeting, commission approved a 10 percent increase for water consumption rates to New Century tenants.
Staff has done further study on water rates and fees since then and proposed more increases, to: service charge components, water connection and system development fees, and fire line charges.
The proposed fees for connection and system development represented the biggest increase. Connection of a two inch line is currently $4,750. The proposed rate increases that to $48,000.
This large increase caused concern with commission members.
After discussion, motion was made to adopt the proposed increases to monthly minimum charges, service charges and for fire lines. The motion carried with none opposed.
The proposed increases for connection and system development charges were put aside for further study.
Rent abatement request
Tom Cargin, owner of Air Associates of Kansas, appeared to request a 36 month rent abatement to help the company deal with storm repairs and ramp renovations.
Air Associates is a fixed base operator (FBO) that sells aviation fuel, runs a flight school, and offers aircraft rental and charter services.
The company has been a New Century tenant for 15 years.
“On one hand I can see that we’d want to lend a helping hand but on the other, insurance deductibles and improving your tanks, that’s sort of the cost of doing business,” said Brad Weisenburger, chairman.
Peet noted that the airport has a number of major projects occurring in the same time frame.
Discussion indicated that commission is not likely to approve the 100 percent abatement for 36 months, however they might consider a lower abatement rate for a shorter term.
Commission did not make a decision at this meeting. They plan further study and will discuss the topic again, probably at next month’s meeting.