After three years, the City of Monett's master plan for the Monett Municipal Airport has received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The move clears the way for land acquisition in 2013.
The 20-year plan for the airport has been waiting for completion of the environmental study. According to City Administrator Dennis Pyle, the FAA recommended a general study of the entire airport property to avoid a piecemeal overview. The Finding of No Significant Impact arrived on Nov. 15.
The chief concern in the environmental study focused on the possible presence of the endangered Ozarks cavefish. The Arkansas darter fish, the gray bat and the greater prairie chicken were also listed as primary concerns, especially because of the area's karst geology.
The study looked at the airport property as a possible wetland. One specific wetland measuring about a quarter of an acre was identified west of the current runway. No fish were found on the land, but the report stated the Ozarks cavefish has been found elsewhere in the watershed.
Improvements under consideration at the airport include: acquisition of approximately 378 acres of land; relocating the runway to the west and extending it to 6,001 feet; converting the current runway into a new taxiway; relocating the automated weather observation station (AWOS); upgrading the airfield markings and lighting; establishing a global positioning-based instrument approach; and improving both the terminal area and hangar storage space.
As a first step, the city must put engineering consultation services out for bid. Pyle said the service has not been bid for several years and the city was waiting for the environmental study clearance before proceeding.
Proposals are due back by Dec. 13. The city has used the services of the Kansas City-based firm of Bucher, Willis and Ratliff, which recently sold to the Lochner engineering firm, which has offices nationwide.
Pyle expected the engineering consultant would be determined in January or February, 2013. The consultant would manage the next steps, including hiring an expert in land acquisition, conducting a survey of the land and doing an environmental site assessment of each property.
The city is seeking to buy land from 11 property owners and aquire three easements. Pyle expected it could take until next summer before any land deals were arranged. The engineering firm would hire a subconsultant responsible for appraising property and the review appraisal.
"Based on the site assessment and approval, the city will make an offer on each property," Pyle said. "The owner can accept the offer or negotiate through the consultant. If we are not able to reach an agreement, the process will either stop or move to condemnation. The city would prefer to negotiate a reasonable price and buy the property."
The city receives approximately $150,000 a year in Non-Primary Entitlement (NPE) funds for airport improvement. The money can be used for projects detailed in the approved master plan, including the purchase of property.
NPE funds are available back to 2009 and are expected to cover land acquisition costs. Pyle said the federal government changed the terms for funding over the years. The oldest money is available with a 5 percent match from the city. The most recent money will require a 10 percent match.
The environmental assessment, submitted through the Missouri Department of Transportation, will require the city to reroute the east-west Farm Road 2025, which crosses land identified for acquisition on the south end of the present airport.
Mike Waller, an engineer with Lochner, is identified as the project manager for the master plan and the environmental assessment.