Following through on the annual capital improvement plan put forth by the Newton City/County Airport, airport manager Brian Palmer came before the Harvey County Commission on Monday with an update — namely that ongoing projects are progressing, but one in the works will likely be delayed.

Discretionary funding from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Midwest region is not expected to be available in 2019, when plans were in place to start work on the Taxiway E project at the airport. Palmer said that will likely push the project, which was originally brought forward in 2016, back into 2020.

"We're in the wait and see mode at this point," Palmer said.

Currently, work is progressing on Taxiway C on the heels of the rehabilitation project for runway 8-26. In fact, Palmer said the Taxiway C project was moved up in the schedule since no additional discretionary funding was needed to facilitate that work — as the airport was able to rely on its banked entitlement funding ($150,000 per year for up to four years) to take on its most recent projects.

After the rehabilitation of east/west runway was completed, the plan was to address the taxiways that support it, but Taxiway E is proving a tougher project to facilitate with a lack of funding as Palmer noted it will be a full remove and replace — not a rehabilitation.

Palmer said the plan is to move Taxiway E 100 to 150 yards closer to the runway from its current location to facilitate the landing of larger planes (with longer wingspans). While the design phase alone comes with a projected cost of $1.2 million, both he and County Administrator Anthony Swartzendruber were quick to point out the county's small portion of required matching funds (split with the city of Newton) for the overall cost that would be spread out over the length of the project.

"The local match, just for that project over those five years, our portion of the local match would be about $550,000," Swartzendruber said.

With the Taxiway E project tabled for the time being, Palmer also opened discussion up to take recommendations from the commissioners for suggestions to consider for eligibility in the capital improvement plan.

For commission chair Randy Hague, there was one item in particular that stood out once the work on the runways and taxiways is complete.

"The only thing I can see down the road is eventually we're probably gonna have to do something on the east side of the runway as far as a taxiway or opening that up to development," Hague said.

Development on the east side of the city/county airport is something that Palmer said is reflected in the (20-year) master plan developed a few years ago, but there are a number of items that would have to be addressed before that could be considered — though both he and commissioners raised awareness about a certain point at which there will be no other alternatives.

Most notably, Palmer stated that the current airport property runs right up (between 400 and 500 feet) to the building restriction line and the lack of infrastructure (water, sewer, electricity) east of the property line would also pose a challenge.

"There isn't anything we could do without acquisition of new property out there at this point," Palmer said. "It would have to be a significant project for us to want to build over there because I'm sure it would cost significant capital improvements money to do that."

In other business, the county commission:

Recognized new county treasurer Emily Nichols as she was sworn into office.
Heard an update on the state's rail priorities following Local Government Day at the Capitol, with the state requesting Amtrak to do another feasibility study regarding the potential expansion of the Heartland Flyer line to connect with the Southwest chief.
Approved MKEC Engineering to perform the county's biennial bridge inspection — covering 280 structures in the county — at a cost of $37,800. The cost was a slight increase ($270) from two years ago.
Appointed Joel Hurd (representing the Harvey County Farmers Market) and Kristine Hamlin Hildebrand (representing health professionals) to serve three-year terms on the Harvey County Food and Farm Council, as requested by council leadership.
Recognized Jeri Smith for 31 years of service with the county treasurer's office.
Approved Resolution 2018-4 for the sale of equipment no longer needed by the Solid Waste Department.
Approved a renewal of the Wedgewood Public Golf Course's cereal malt beverage license.
Approved bid specifications for a new pickup (to help haul the eWaste trailer) for the Solid Waste Department.
Heard an update on the 911 system outage that occurred over the weekend, with Communications Director Don Gruver saying he was not aware of his department being affected at all — though he did note it highlighted a need to do a better job of making residents aware of the dispatch center's non-emergency seven-digit phone number.
Learned from Health Department Director Lynnette Redington that the ReNewton Bike Initiative has been renamed Walk and Roll Harvey to emphasize its countywide focus. Additionally, she noted Health Ministries Clinic is partnering with the health department to help facilitate HIV testing in the county (which has not been offered in recent years).
Approved Emergency Management's hazardous materials emergency preparedness grant application.
Heard from city of Wichita authorities on proposed changes to the Aquifer Storage and Recovery project that would lower the threshold of water depths in the Equus Beds aquifer to allow the city more usage of its accrued recharge credits (allowing it to withdraw additional water from the aquifer when needed).
Accepted the Traffic Engineering Assistance Program report from the Kansas Department of Transportation — as requested by Harvey County Road and Bridge Department — addressing safety concerns at the following three intersections: S. Anderson Road and SW 36th Street, N. Oliver Road and NE 36th Street and SW 84th Street and S. Patterson Road. The commission also approved staff and legal counsel to proceed with drafting a resolution to allow for the installation of road signs (stop, stop ahead, etc.) to address the concerns at these intersections.