The Cherokee City Council last week met in a special joint meeting with the Cherokee Airport Authority (CAA) to discuss the proposed acquisition of land and/or air rights from several properties north of the airport, and to review a drainage improvement project by the CAA to connect to the Lake Street surface and drainage improvements the City will make in 2012.
Major to the land acquisition rights project will be the removal of the existing Head Start Building at 324 Lake St., which will either be moved or razed.
The CAA was successful in applying for a Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) grant totaling $800,000 for which a portion of that will be used to remove the Head Start facility.
CAA Chairman Kent Wenck explained to the Council that the FAA has been pressuring the CAA to get rid of the Head Start building because of liability issues with its location in the Runway Protection Zone (RPZ).
"The FAA just isn't too keen on children being located at the end of a runway," explained Wenck. "It's a big liability issue for them."
The Mid-Sioux Opportunities Head Start facility in Cherokee is considering relocating into the former Webster Elementary School on North Roosevelt pending negotiations with the Cherokee School District, moving its current building to a site owned by the Cherokee County Fair Board east of the North Star Community Credit Union at 1030 S. Second St., or looking at several other options, according to Wenck.
Wenck also said that easements have been negotiated with several other property owners north of the airport to secure the necessary land and/or air rights for those properties involved.
The Cherokee County Work Services building on Lake Street is outside the RPZ and not affected by the airport's land and/or air acquisitions.
The FAA grant would pay for 95-percent of the project, with the CAA paying the remaining 5-percent, according to Wenck.
The goal for the CAA is to reclaim its former 4,000 foot runway stature that was shortened to 3,800 feet because of building in or near the RPZ.
The CAA drainage project will also be funded by a 95-percent FAA grant and was bid at an estimated $90,000, not including engineering and other fees that would total another $20,000 to $25,000, according to Wenck. The CAA portion would total about $6,000.
That drainage project involves the CAA grinding down and tiling a drainage ditch north of the airport, south of Lake Street. The FAA has also pressured the CAA to remedy that ditch and considers it a liability issue for the CAA, City, and County if a pilot ever overshot the runway and hit the ditch.
A 30-inch drainage pipe will be installed and meshed with the City's new pipe to be installed in 2012, and ultimately drain into Spring Lake.
The drainage project also calls for the removal of two large trees that lie in the RPZ north of the airport, also considered safety and liability issues by the FAA.
Wenck said that when all the projects are completed, the Cherokee Airport will be one of the best-equipped and finest full-service, state-of-the-art facilities of its kind.
The 4,000 foot runway also will accommodate all types of business jets, including updated corporate aircraft for Hy-Vee and Tyson Foods, Cherokee County's largest employers.
Wenck and City Administrator Don Eikmeier also pledged to improve communications between the City and CAA moving forward.