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City to lease airport space

Staff writer

Marion Airport could see an increase in occupancy soon, as Marion City Council approved a lease agreement that will be used as a template for private individuals looking to use space to store planes.

The agreement was brought to light by a new business interest. A man from Ulysses wants to start a permanent agricultural spraying operation, which would be based at the airport. The operator, whose name was not made public because an official agreement has not yet been reached, would operate from March until October. The man previously had temporary spray operations in the area from April to mid-May in 2013.

“It would be a great addition to our airport to have a new hangar out there,” Marion Airport Board Chairman Jim Braden told council Monday. “Maybe bring a little more activity in, because I think that’s how some of the grants are awarded, by the amount of flights.”

The city currently has ownership of all the land at the airport and all the buildings on said land; the city would keep ownership of the land, but enable private parties to lease space to construct privately owned developments.

City Administrator Roger Holter said the city hopes to lease three lots where private hangars will be built, with potential for as many as eight new lots within the next three years.

Currently to lease a hangar at the airport is $600 per year, with no opportunities for further development. A new agreement would lease space for around 5-10 cents per square foot. The spraying operation has requested a 60-by-60 space, which would cost $360 per year at 10 cents per square foot.

While the hangar the city is currently considering is a new business, Holter said the overall purpose of leasing space isn’t to bring in new businesses — it’s to supplement existing businesses.

“Many companies and organizations have their own aircraft, they make their bases of operations somewhere else,” Holter said. “Right now the majority of those are housed in the Wichita market.”

Holter said space at the two airports in Wichita is getting to be very expensive.

“We’ve got plane owners on a waiting list here wanting to lease a hangar from us,” Holter said.

The current prospective business owner could play a helpful role in the community, Holter said.

McPherson, Emporia, and El Dorado do not currently allow spraying operations, though Herington does.

Holter added that the more the airport is used, the better standing it has to attain grants from KDOT and the FAA.

“This is the first concrete solid step that we can put in place as a governing body to promote the resources that we have and still serve, with the board’s approval, the general aviation community in a way that will help it,” he said.

Holter emphasized that Monday’s meeting was the first step in a long process before the spraying operation is approved and before other private entities can secure space.

“We have to show to prospective clients that we are willing to lease space at our airport,” he said. “In concept, we can now say we’re willing to lease, on a long-term basis, land for development.”

The contract template features a 25-year agreement, with renewal options every five years. The next step for the spraying operator is to get approval from the EPA, at which point he can seek an official agreement to lease the land at the airport.

Last modified Oct. 15, 2014

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