There is good news for the Newton City Commission and Harvey County Commission — the Newton City/County Airport buildings are almost at capacity.
“All but two of our buildings are currently under contract,” said Brian Palmer, director of the airport.
Longtime tenant Hesston College is considering expansion, and Park Aerospace is expanding — waiting on an approval from the FAA to break ground on a larger facility. Longtime tenant Avcon is renewing leases right now — drafts of the lease agreement should be in front of the commissions for review next week.
And Weatherly Aircraft has rented space as they move their manufacturing and corporate offices to Newton from California.
“When you travel out to (association meetings) and people bring up airports ... you tell them you have 26 buildings in your airport, they are pretty much in amazement,” said County Commissioner Chip Westfall. “You tell them we put 151 planes to bed at night and their jaw drops again. We do have ... a jewel that we need to keep polishing.”
There was a joint meeting of the city and county commissions to take a look at the airport capital improvement plan and how much each entity is putting into the airport funds each year.
During that meeting it was discussed how years of deferred maintenance caught up to the facility, and forced the city and county to contribute more to the airport for maintenance work — referred to as "catch-up work" by administration — about 10 years ago. Both commissions moved from $50,000 to $80,000 annually about 10 years ago. Both are considering an additional $10,000 a year to prevent deficit spending by the airport in 2024.
In addition, over the course of the past few years, administration of the airport has been working to renegotiate leases with tenants to better reflect market rates as it was discovered that the airport rents were lower than market rates.
“We are not doing flat rates anymore. The leases that will come to you ... show a 2 percent increase for the first year and a 1.5 percent increase each year after that for the entire length of the lease,” Palmer said.
In the case of Avcon, which is the largest tenant at the airport, those contracts are five years in length with the possibility of five renewals, for a potential of 25 years. The increases will be built into every year. The company is leasing five buildings at the airport and will be leasing an additional building for two years.
“Our policy allows for between 1 and 4 percent,” Palmer said. “We can kind of adjust that based on what the tenant is doing. How do they serve the airport, what do the do for the airport, are they an existing tenant, are they a new tenant — there are other factors. Avcon is our largest tenant and have been a tenant for a long time so we tipped to the low end.”