Missouri Town Considers New Plans for Use of GA Airport

The City Council is considering several proposals for redeveloping the land currently occupied by Festus Memorial Airport and adjacent property, and one of the proposals is for an airport.

Developer Ron Moring wants to buy the 60 acres of airport land and combine it with 17 acres he already owns near the airport. Moring says his plans include a 5,000-seat convention center and a water park on the current airport land, and he would use the extra property for a new airport terminal and hangars and a 5,000-foot runway.

Moring said he and Jefferson County would be partners so that the airport could qualify for public funding. He says federal money would be available.

Moring did not disclose what he would pay for the airport property. His estimate of the investment needed for the new airport facility is $16.8 million and for the convention center and water park, $42 million. Scott Gray and his lawyer, Tim Gilmore, also have made a presentation to the council. Their proposal is to buy the airport property for $1.7 million, the amount determined by a recent appraisal. Festus owns an additional 40 acres at the site and is willing to sell it, but City Administrator Steve Stoll says much of that additional land is unusable.

Gilmore had a $100,000 check as earnest money but said the offer would expire this week. Gray said he would like to develop an industrial park at the site. His business, SG Print & Mail in Crystal City, has grown from to 60 from 10 employees.

"Jobs are scarce here," Gray said. "This is a good community. You need to give them good job opportunities."

Other proposals will be presented to the council from Jeff Higgs of Fiesta Corp. and from businessman Larry Dean.

Dean previously offered to sign a lease with Festus to put in 20 ball fields for youth sports.

Stoll said: "Our intention is to advertise and market (the property) widely. The mayor and council are looking for top dollar for the project."

The council also heard from Mike O'Neil with Richard Laiben, the firm previously chosen to market the airport property. O'Neil says that putting the property on the market is the most likely way to maximize the value.

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