Danedri Thompson
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The city of Gardner will give a 90 day notice to terminate a lease agreement for administration of the airport between the city and the city airport board. City council members reached a consensus to move forward with terminating the current form of administration of the airport on the west side of town during a Sept. 8 city council meeting.
Council members discussed a variety of options for administration of the airport during a work session that took place prior to the council meeting on the same day. Discussion on the future of the airport was mixed during the work session, but following a 15 minute executive session, it appeared consensus to terminate the airport board’s lease agreement was unanimous.
Council will likely conduct a formal vote on issuing a 90-day lease termination notice at the Sept. 21 council meeting.
In a work session presentation, city staff presented four different options for the future of the airport. The options included closing the municipal airport and leaving the airport’s administration as it currently exists.
Other options included updating the airport master plan to increase utilization of the airport. Brian Faust, public works director, listed the Paola Municipal Airport as an example. There is a popular restaurant in the Paola airport, which attracts flyers to fuel up and dine in Paola.
“More amenities would be nice to have at the airport,” council member Steve Shute said. He suggested adding higher end housing with airplane hangars at the airport. He noted a similar such subdivision on the west side of Chicago.
“Folks fly in, they park (their plane) at their house in their own hangar, get in their car and drive around and then they get in their plane and fly out if they have to go out of town,” Shute said. “I don’t think there’s anyplace like that in the Kansas City area.”
There is some developable land on the west side of the airport, but otherwise, the facility is pretty much landlocked, Faust told council members.
The city could also be aggressive in airport updates with the hope of it being utilized as more as an executive airport rather than a recreational one, Faust said. That option, however,is not very viable. It would require longer runways and a lot of property acquisitions, plus there are three other executive airports in Johnson County, including New Century AirCenter.
“I think it’d be hard,” Faust said. “We’ve talked about some of the options not really being realistic.”
Several residents, airport board members and airplane enthusiasts addressed the council on the airport’s future.
Paula Willey said she takes her children out to the municipal airport once or twice each week.
“I think you really have a gem out there,” she said. “It’s one of those little communities all unto itself.”
However, she said some people wait as long as 10 years to lease hangar space. There is a waiting list with about 80 people awaiting an available hangar at Gardner Municipal Airport. Some of those already lease hangars there, but hope to upgrade when nicer hangar space is available.
Airport board member Ray Doerr said he was on the waiting list for a hangar for seven years. When the airport board built a new hangars in 1999, it took 44 names to fill the available 20 spaces.
The hangars are priced differently depending on what a person leases. For example, there are older hangars with dirt floors, and there are brand new hangars with concrete floors and electronic doors.
The airport board does allow subletting of hangar space. Airport board member Dave Hayden said in part, because it would be impossible to police who is subleasing. It is also a friendly practice, Doerr said.
“If somebody is in between airplanes, they can sublease for a year while they figure out what to do next,” Doerr said.