Aerial photo courtesy Emily Reimer/Skydive
Plans discussed at an Aug. 25 meeting detail the future expansion
of the Osage City Municipal Airport. The plans, seen here overlaying
a current photo of the airport, call for the acquisition of 130
acres of private land (outlined in blue) for a new runway.
Wayne White | Managing Editor
OSAGE CITY—After almost 25 years of planning, a $4 million
federal project is on final approach to Osage City’s airport.
With approval of the project by the Federal Aviation Administration
in 2006, the next step is to acquire land for the runway expansion,
explained Osage City Manager Nick Hernandez during a meeting held
last week to provide information about the project to citizens and
As planned, the project will add a longer runway east of the existing
airport, requiring the acquisition of about 130 acres of private
property and easements. One residence with outbuildings is in the
path of the proposed project, which will also require closure and
relocation of a township road adjacent to the airport. Other affected
property is primarily farm ground. Hernandez said six property owners
have land in the project area.
During the Aug. 25 meeting, attended by about 25 people, Henandez
outlined the history of the airport, which was first considered
in 1946. At that time, the Osage City Council approved an ordinance
calling for a special election to gain voter approval to acquire,
develop and equip a municipal airport. The proposition passed by
a slim margin, 239 votes to 224, and the council approved issuing
bonds for a new airport.
In 1969, paving of a 2,600-foot runway was completed, and the following
year, the Osage City Chamber of Commerce proposed the organization
would purchase lights and poles if the city would install and wire
By 1976, lack of proper maintenance led to council discussion of
funding airport needs. In 1983, the city constructed a road at the
airport industrial park and installed utilities. That year also
saw damage to the taxiway from use by the nearby National Guard
“Armory personnel went on the taxiway and pretty much destroyed
it,” Hernandez said.
That damage and continued degradation of the runway led the city
to continue to seek outside funding for the airport.
In 1985, Osage City was accepted into the FAA’s national plan
of integrated airport systems.
In a letter to then-mayor Dwight Thompson, the FAA said, “The
number of based aircraft indicated in your letter is sufficient
justification to add Osage City to [the national airport plan].”
“That opened up doors for funding,” Hernandez said last
Following inclusion in the plan that year, costs were estimated
at $195,000 to repair the runway and taxiway. The council approved
preparing an application for a study of airport improvements. The
council decided to seal the runway as a temporary fix.
“They did a chip and seal on the runway to save money,”
Steps were taken to secure a grant, but by the end of the next year,
the application to the FAA remained pending.
In 1987, a FAA grant of $34,650 was approved to develop an airport
master layout plan, which was required before the city could obtain
future FAA funding. The next year, the council unanimously approved
a site plan and submitted it to the FAA. That plan is the basis
for the plan now being acted upon.
“Basically, back in 1988, this is what was decided,”
Hernandez said. “This is the plan they’ve kind of been
working on ever since.”
In 1989, the city asked voters to decide if land should be acquired
for the airport and if $125,000 in bonds should be issued for the
acquisition, and airport expansion and development. Voters responded
by passing the referendum 478 votes to 446, but the bonds were never
That year, the council approved an application to the FAA for the
first phase of construction.
During the next few years, the city waited for FAA approval, with
Osage City’s application reported to be high on the priority
list. In 1992, the FAA requested an update of the airport layout
plan, but no changes were made. In 1994, the application remained
near the top of the priority list.
By 1999, the city began seeking other funding, applying for a grant
from Kansas Department of Transportation for runway and ramp improvements.
“This was 10 years after the original plan was passed and
they were still looking for funding,” Hernandez said.
A grant of $107,000 was awarded, but the project was not completed
due to the introduction of a federal program that provided up to
$150,000 annually to general aviation airports.
“The council had put off the other (funding) in anticipation
of this funding,” Hernandez said.
In 2000, the city was notified that the airport layout plan must
be updated as a prerequisite to receiving federal funds. In 2002,
the council hired engineering firm Bucher, Willis & Ratliff
to update the plan.
In 2003, the city was awarded $126,849 in federal funding to repair
the airport apron and install a beacon.
“That was ultimately from the damage back in 1983,”
On April 18, 2006, the then-city manager received word from the
FAA to proceed with land acquisition to construct a 4,100-foot by
75-foot runway, with land acquisition scheduled for 2007. In 2008,
the FAA notified the city that emphasis should be placed on building
a new, safer runway, noting approval had been given in 2006.
“They were stressing to the city [it] needed to be moving
forward,” Hernandez said.
Also in 2008, the city used FAA funds to slurry seal and remark
the runway, which cost $105,545.
Last year, FAA funds in the amount of $273,693 were used to reconstruct
the airport access road and taxiway area.
At the first of this year, the city council approved an agreement
with Kirkham-Michael for surveying and planning services, costing
$35,713, with the FAA paying 95 percent and the city paying the
In August, a contract with Midwest Right of Way was approved to
provide land acquisition services, not to exceed $54,470, also to
be paid with a 95/5 FAA grant. Although a private meeting was held
with potentially affected landowners in July, last week’s
public information meeting was the next step in the project.
Hernandez said two options were available – continue with
the expansion or cease the project.
If the project is continued, the city would remain eligible for
annual FAA funding of $150,000 and be able to build a new runway
that meets FAA design and safety specifications.
Describing the existing runway, Hernandez said, “It’s
narrow, it’s short, and right at the highway they have to
drop in. It’s very intimidating.”
The project is expected to cost $4,150,031, with the local share
projected at $207,152.
If the project was ceased, the city would be required to pay back
funds spent by the FAA for planning and studies, estimated to be
$90,000, and would lose eligibility for FAA annual funding.
“Basically, there wouldn’t be any more upgrades unless
we choose to go forward with the expansion,” he said.
Hernandez noted that since 1988, the city had received $627,789
from the FAA for airport maintenance. During that time, the city
has spent $40,930 on the airport, averaging about $1,860 per year.
“That’s not very much money the city has spent to maintain
that runway,” Hernandez said.
Questioned about whether the decision was final to proceed, Hernandez
said, “It’s not a done deal until purchase of the land.”
According to information on the Osage County appraiser’s website,
owners of land surrounding the airport include KanBuild, Inc., Stephen
Kellison, John Fletcher, Thompson Farms LLC, Robert and Mary Jones,
and Gary Moulin. The home and outbuildings in the path of the proposed
runway are the residence of Ben Thompson and family.
Hernandez said three of those properties would require land acquisition,
while the other three would require easements as runway protection
zones. For the easements, landowners would retain the land for uses
such as farming, but would not be able to build structures.
The plan would also require that Osage City’s 17th Street,
also called Indian Hills Road, be moved. As planned, that township
road would be moved to nearby Nichols Street and extended south
to 245th Street.
One man at the meeting told Hernandez that citizens should be talking
with city council members about the plan “not sitting here
arguing with you.”
A woman spoke up noting that council members were “not even
here to listen.”
“The fair thing would be to let people say how they feel about
it,” she said.
Hernandez responded to the comments, “It’s my job to
make sure we continue on the same path as was decided before I got
Hernandez has served as city manager since August 2008.
Hernandez’s presentation is available on the city’s
website http://www.osagecity.org – click the link for Document
Center, then the link for Airport.