New airport possible in Ottawa, KS

Oct. 1, 2009
City officials look to replace storm-damaged facilities


Sep. 30--Chad Caylor, Ottawa, keeps his airplane at a private airfield, rather than at Ottawa Municipal Airport.

That's mostly because the Ottawa airport doesn't have what are known as T-hangars, which owners like Caylor prefer because the hangars provide better access to the plane and fewer opportunities for damage.

That's one of the changes likely to be considered as city officials prepare to rebuild the airport after damage caused by a July 8 storm.

The city expects to receive about $296,000 as part of an insurance settlement, City Manager Richard Nienstedt told commissioners during their study session Monday. Most of that was for damage to the airport.

Nienstedt told commissioners they had three options: just repair what was damaged, rebuild with improvements at the existing site or start over with new facilities south of the existing site.

A new facility could replace the main hangar with a lobby, offices and restroom facilities. The city could add more T-hangars, Nienstedt said.

Chuck LeMaster, aiport manager, said he thinks the airport needs a 12,000-square foot building that includes a lobby, restrooms and offices as well as a hangar for plane storage and maintenance. The concrete underneath the existing main building would be the ideal location for a row of T-hangars, he said.

More extensive improvements likely will cost more than the settlement, but the insurance money still would pay for most of the costs, Nienstedt estimated.

"The airport is really a critical part of economic development," Nienstedt said. "Sometimes you just don't see it."

Caylor agreed the airport doesn't showcase Ottawa well to visitors. He's a professional pilot and said sometimes his company needs to fly influential people into the area.

"If I was to bring someone fairly influential here, I don't think the airport is a good representation of what Ottawa is about," Caylor said.

LeMaster said he's heard from about 30 people who want to move to Ottawa if the airport were improved. He said he hopes the city moves quickly to replace the hangars, because there is a significant need.

"There are no hangars available at any of the airports around us. There's a waiting list everywhere," he said.

Commissioners said they were in favor of exploring the options to see what kind of facility could be built. The current facilities are outdated with a leaking roof, asbestos and other problems, Nienstedt and commissioners said. The main building is about 70 years old, LeMaster said.

"I think the No. 1 thing ought to be replacing the whole thing," Commissioner Gene Ramsey said.

Nienstedt said it's early in the process, but he wants to take the next couple of weeks or so to check out various options and get prices. He expects to have a better idea of the possiblities by the end of October, he said.