Osage City mayor breaks tie vote to approve airport acquisition contract

OSAGE CITY – It took a tie-breaking vote by the mayor for easement acquisition to proceed for Osage City’s ongoing $4.5 million airport project last week.

At the Nov. 12 meeting, the Osage City Council discussed the airport project after hearing from Dennis Keegan, of Midwest Right of Way Services, Inc., the company contracted with the city to acquire the needed land and easements for the airport improvement project.

Keegan reported that one tract of land had been acquired and the council had a contract to approve for an easement for 9.11 acres of land northeast of the airport that belongs to Gary and Cindy Moulin. The contract offered $13,000 to the Moulins for the surface and overhead easement. The FAA grant funds 90 percent of the airport project including land and easement acquisitions.

The council had also considered the Moulin contract in October, but tabled it for 30 days after Osage City Council Member Bruce Schoepflin questioned why the city was buying air space before all needed land was purchased.

Keegan reported that four tracts were yet to be acquired, but updated appraisals were used to make final offers to those landowners. He said his company is “ready to take the step” to begin with eminent domain proceedings if the offers are not accepted.

“We feel like negotiations are at impasse on the rest of them and are ready to go,” Keegan said.

Questioned by Osage City Council Member Rob Rowe, Keegan noted the time period had passed for the owners to accept the offers and the city would need to take action to proceed with condemnation of property.

Rowe asked city attorney Rick Godderz how the city should proceed.

“For acquisition of land I need to know if all these negotiations are over,” Godderz said, “and if they are I need the green light to go ahead with eminent domain proceedings.”

Keegan said necessary documentation would be turned over to the city.

Eric Johnson, of Kirkham Michael Consulting Engineers, the firm contracted by the city to engineer and oversee the FAA project, was also at the meeting to provide information.

Schoepflin brought up his concern with purchasing overhead easements before all needed land had been acquired.

“I guess I want you guys to put my mind at ease that this is the right thing to do and this is what needs to be done,” Schoepflin told Johnson. “My deal is why are we buying airspace if we haven’t got the ground bought yet? I want you guys to sell me on this.”

Schoepflin also asked for assurance that funds were available for the project.

Johnson explained that the project has “been a long process” and it is now in acquisition phase. He said the acquisition “includes everything – air space and easements” required by the FAA. He said the FAA requires the city to follow FAA guidelines “to ensure that you’re protecting your airspace properly” and the airspace was needed along with land.

Johnson said the funds for the overhead easement were available, “but we can’t draw down that money until there a signed agreement for that.”

“So if all these land acquisitions happened tomorrow the money would be there?” Schoepflin asked.

“That’s what the FAA tells me and they’ve already proven that,” Johnson said, noting the grant for the first acquisition had been paid.

Osage City Council Member Linda Carson asked why FAA representatives weren’t available to speak with the council.

“I appreciate you guys’ information, but is there some reason the FAA can’t come down to the meetings,” Carson said. “It’s hard to make decisions, for me anyway, if you don’t have the whole information there. I’m not totally opposed to buying this from Gary and Cindy, but is it ever going to come to be that we’re going to have an airport?” She said the process was frustrating.

“It’s frustrating all around,” Johnson agreed. “All we know is they gave us the capital improvement program, which they gave [Osage City Manager Linda Jones] already, and they still have $4.5 million and some change dedicated to this airport.”

Johnson had earlier told the council his firm was moving forward with the 2014 capital improvement program, in which the FAA outlines the project schedule and funding.

Keegan assured Carson the acquisitions were progressing as planned.

“This is normal process, you’re getting to that point through negotiations, starting condemnation, acquire the rest of the tracts, and then you begin construction,” Keegan said.

Osage City Mayor Quintin Robert noted the grant agreement required the city to act in “effort to acquire property expeditiously by negotiations – shall carry out and complete the project without undue delay,” and asked Godderz about the city’s obligation under the contract.

Godderz said the city had signed the agreement and was bound by its terms.

“The money has been allocated, you have already taken the steps by acquiring the Kellison property,” Godderz said. “These are all valid questions raised by the council, but you did sign the agreement that you would proceed.”

“What happens if we don’t?” Schoepflin said.

Godderz said if the project didn’t proceed it could jeopardize FAA funding for airport maintenance, said to be about $150,000 annually.

Osage City Council Member Becky Brewer said if the project ceased the city would not only lose out on airport renovations, but “we won’t have any money to have upkeep of the airport anymore.”

“Where we’re at today is we did sign an agreement and said we will proceed in an expeditious manner to acquire the rights,” Godderz said.

On council member Ed Berends’ motion to approve the Moulin contract, with council member Ed Mueller’s second, Robert asked for a voice vote, and declared the motion carried.

Osage City Council Member Duane Peroo’s requested a roll call vote: Mueller, aye; Peroo, nay; Berends, aye; Brewer, aye; Rowe, nay; Schoepflin, nay; Carson, nay; and council member Leroy Stromgren asked to abstain.

Godderz advised Stromgren should not abstain from the vote.

‘All we’re voting on is Mr. Moulin’s land,” Stromgren said. “If he doesn’t care he can’t ever do anything with it but farm it, I vote to pay him.”

The mayor then cast the tie-breaking vote.

“That puts it in my court,” Robert said, “and I will vote to approve to pay the contract for Gary and Cindy Moulin.”

Godderz said that when he receives confirmation that negotiations had ceased, the city would begin steps toward eminent domain proceedings on the remaining four tracts.

A detailed outline of the project was provided at a public meeting in 2010. It is available on Skydive Kansas’ website here.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas