The Newton City/County Airport is outgrowing its current facilities, and at a special meeting Monday, city and county officials discussed whether they should issue bonds to build a new 14,000 square foot hangar.
"To me this is a no-brainer," Newton City Commissioner Glen Davis said. "The airport is a success already, and this is just going to make it more of a success. This is going to help bring more business to our area."
The bond is not to exceed $1.7 million, and the debt is to be paid off through revenue generated at the airport, which would come from such things as parking the planes in the hangar and fuel sales. The city and county do not intend to use tax dollars to pay for the project. Most likely, the debt would be paid off in 20 years.
The 14,000 square foot hangar will include 2,000 square feet of office space and a door accommodating aircraft with a 90 foot wingspan and a tail height of 26 feet. Anthony Swartzendruber, assistant administrator and finance director for the county, said this hangar will be able to accommodate newer, larger aircraft that cannot fit in existing hangars at the airport.
County commissioner Chip Westfall said there are about 164 aircraft licensed through the airport, and about 148 come "home" to the airport each night. Right now there is not much space for housing visiting aircraft passing through the area.
"Business is flying away from this airport because we are not keeping up with the capacity," said Tim Johnson, Newton assistant city manager.
Swartzendruber also brought the plan before the Harvey County Commission at its regular Monday meeting. The commission voted 2-1 to ask the Public Building Commission to issue a bond. Commissioner Randy Hague cast the opposing vote, saying he was worried about adding to the county's debt.
The PBC voted 4-1 to issue the bond. Once again, Hague, who also serves on the PBC, voted against the measure.
"Even though this is self-sufficient, it still adds to the debt between three entities," Hague said. "I would like to table this until we study it further. People are concerned on the total debt. When does it become non-sustainable?"
Westfall said a larger hangar would attract more business to Newton, and the bond would easily pay for itself. Pilots would be paying to park their planes here, rather than at Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita.
"We need more space," Westfall said during the city/county meeting. "We need to be able to put them to bed, and they pay good money to put them to bed."
County Commissioner Ron Krehbiel, who also voted in favor of the hangar, said, "I think it's a good deal. The business is there. It ought to pay for itself. If we can get that paid for without using taxpayer dollars, that's super."
Hague said, "I'm not saying the airport doesn't need it. I know they need it, but I would like to see us get rid of some of this debt before we do it."
The PBC will place an announcement of the bond in the Kansan this Friday and on the following Friday. That will give the public a 30-day "protest period," ending Oct. 27 to appeal the bond.