Nearly 20 citizens of Pulaski County packed into the Commissioners’ meeting room to dispute the expansion of the county airport. The Pulaski County Airport Association Board has been looking into expanding their runway by 800 feet, which would allow larger corporate aircraft to land at their airport without jeopardizing their insurance, but the expansion requires the closure of road 100 West, as well as the acquisition of land from citizens. Everyone, from farmers to pilots, had something to say regarding the issue.
One citizen, Kevin Wyatt, approached the commissioners with a list of questions and other points. He stated that the loss of revenue to the county from losing the farmland would be too great to be feasible, and he stated that the reduction of land values would also be problematic. Wyatt said that there would be a great deal of expenses that the commissioners are not considering, and questioned the number of jets listed in the Board’s proposal.
Becky Dilts stated that larger planes have access in Logansport and Rochester, and that there is no need for this kind of expansion for the airport. She said that the expansion is unfair to land owners and completely unnecessary, as she rarely sees big planes land at the airport and the most common aircraft she sees landing are crop dusters, which can land on the current runway without any issues.
Derrich Dilts asked the commissioners where they expect the money to come from to fund the project. He mentioned, “People don’t get raises, but we can build this?” Dilts said that saving 20 minutes from a trip is not worth the expense.
Darrell Gudeman stated that his irrigation system would be affected. Gudeman said that he read through most of the report for the expansion, and several details stood out, including the number of landings and take-offs reported from the airport. He said that in the report, it states that B-2 aircraft perform over two operations (take-off and landings) a day, and stated he never sees this many planes using the airport. He went on to say that because these figures are invalid, the entire project should be scrapped.
Several other taxpayers also approached the commissioners with their issues concerning the proposal, several stating that the offer of $7,000 per acre is not nearly enough to cover the value of the land. Many of these citizens planned to keep their land for generations, and if this proposal goes through, everything they’ve worked to keep will be lost. Others questioned the need to lengthen the runway at all. Still others mentioned that their irrigation systems would be affected, causing more expense to them than would even be repaid by the sale of the land.
Taxpayer Matt Rausch stated, “This was done behind our backs. If it weren’t for the radio or the paper, we’d have no idea this was going on.” Many other citizens felt the same way, as if the Board was trying to keep this proposal from getting any attention. Rausch also said that he uses 100 West several times a day, and his employees often use it as well.
The commissioners reminded everyone that they have made no motions on the matter, and it was only just brought to their attention recently. They have not approached any spending, and have not agreed to close any roads. Commissioners Ken Boswell stated that if he were asked to vote on the matter immediately, he would say no to even putting a motion on the table because there are too many questions that do not yet have answers. There will be a public hearing on the matter by the Pulaski County Board of Aviation Commissioners on May 19th at 8:00 p.m. ET at the snow removal building at the Pulaski County Airport, and the commissioners recommended that all of the citizens that are concerned should attend the meeting as a group to express their concerns.