Pella Chronicle

March 23, 2012

Writer questions plans for regional airport

The Chronicle

Pella — To the editor,

A recent article written by Clint Brown of the Pella Chronicle and published in the Oskaloosa Herald states: "During the summer of 2010, the city of Pella was directed by Congressman Boswell and Congressman Oberstar to explore a potential regional airport with the City of Oskaloosa."

The word "directed" was again used on March 9, 2012.

The statement is misleading, as it implies the two cities are under directives or mandates to consider a joint airport, which is not the case.

According to the aviation management department at the Iowa DOT, whether the local communities move forward with regional transportation plans, including a regional airport, has been and will continue to remain a local decision. City Councils in Pella and Oskaloosa have shown an interest in looking at regional transportation issues, including the development of a new regional airport between the two communities. Congressmen Oberstar and Boswell, both members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at the time, did encourage (not direct) the communities of Pella and Oskaloosa to work together on transportation issues relating to roadway and airport infrastructure needs.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plays a role in the funding and policy of the Federal Aviation Administration which manages the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP). Congressman Oberstar, who acted as chair of that committee, has since lost his re-election bid and is no longer serving in the Congress.

Since the situation involves a potential application for an AIP grant and the sale of two airport properties currently under federal obligation, the FAA does have the authority to require communities to complete certain steps before moving forward with the grant process. Currently, the FAA is requiring both communities to provide justification for the closure and subsequent sale of the existing airports before committing to any further study," Kay Thede, Aviation Program Manager, Iowa DOT.

The key phrases here are "currently under federal obligation," "local decision" and "provide justification for the closure and subsequent sale of the existing airports. " The burden of proof required by the FAA to justify a need is on the City Officials.

No one disputes that the improvement of infrastructure means economic development down the road, which seems to be the basis for most of the support for a regional airport.

"Build it and they will come" is not good enough in today's economic milieu. Ironically, with today's out-of-control spending, this particular policy supports the justification of need before spending more taxpayer money on big ticket items. If every entity "'currently under federal obligation" paid up, instead of asking for more, the economics that most of us have to apply to our own budgeting, the debt would decrease.

The taxpayers should hold the feet of the officials to the fire when justifying the need for the airport closures and subsequent sales of the existing airports as well as demand a public vote (again).

Carole Kelderman