BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A negotiation is underway between the airport and the landfill to compensate the Fort Madison airport for a sod runway that is no longer being utilized.
At Monday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison Airport Commission, Great River Regional Waste Authority director Wade Hamm and board member Brad Randolph talked to the commission about a grass runway that is not currently being utilized by passenger airplanes, The strip, however, is within the 5,000 foot barrier the Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to be from landfills, due to bird collisions.
Commission member Bob Chestnut said laws have changed over the years and the commission and landfill are trying to execute some type of agreement to satisfy the requirement.
An agreement created about 10 years ago with the commission, the airport, and the FAA negotiated by people no longer on either side of the deal, set $300,000 aside for the property in in-kind or cash value for the strip. In-kind donations would have included using landfill staff, equipment, and other resources to rebuild the grass air strip on the west side of the airport property.
However on Monday, Randolph said if the airport wasn’t interested in having the landing strip rebuilt the landfill would be willing to make a cash payment to the airport to not use the airstrip. The agreement wouldn’t turn the property over to the landfill, but would officially end use of the strip. Shoring up the agreement is part of the GRWWA long-range planning.
Hamm said he was told by the FAA about three years ago to not be in a hurry about the issue, but not forget about it. He said he contacted the FAA again recently and the personnel has changed, but the new staff told him to work with the Fort Madison Airport Commission.
“I was under the understanding that there was no desire to put that back,” Randolph said. “Ultimately it’s up to the airport to decide, but we just want to move forward and we’re able to negotiate some compensation to the airport for permanently closing that.”
Chestnut said $300,000 wasn’t going to be enough to rebuild that, especially if land acquisition had to considered. He said if that was the best offer the landfill had as far as a cash payment, then maybe the landfill should just go ahead and rebuild the runway.
“The cash option if it’s reasonable, should be entertained,” he said. “We have some real work that needs done up here. We have hangars that need work that are now 60-70 years old. So we should consider a cash option if the amount is right, Because we could use that for some of this work and then maybe have some grant seed money.”
Randolph said he assumed the airport didn’t have a desire for the runway any more or to have it rebuilt and if that was the case, GRRWA would be willing to make a payment of $75,000 to $80,000 to the airport.
“We’d have to put pencil to paper, but that’s the number that rolls off the top,” Randolph said. “You would have to decide what it’s worth to you to be adequately compensated for the status quo.”
Chestnut asked Randolph if the landfill board had the $300,000 set aside from their general fund so they won’t be hurt too badly if they had to pay a large portion of that out in cash.
“The only reason I ask is that I would be more likely to resist that offer if it would strap you. I would want more than that, but I wouldn’t want to do that if you don’t have that money.”
Randolph said if the cash amount the airport wanted was too high then the landfill would probably just build it because it wouldn’t be feasible to dump all the cash into it. Chestnut said he agreed and if the amount of money wasn’t enough to show the value of the property, then the landfill should just go ahead and build it.
After Randolph and Hamm left the meeting, Chestnut said he’d like to see the commission ask for more cash for shutting down the runway to allow the airport to see value for the purchase and be able to do some of the work including new drainage tiles and four new doors for the hangars. He said remaining funds could be used to hold in an account to use for matching grants for additional work.
“We could take that money, whether it’s $50,000 or whatever, and turn it into $500,000 or something like that,” Chestnut said.
The commission decided to get an engineer’s estimate on the value of the land and bring that back to the next meeting so the commission could put come up with an amount to counter to the landfill.