Friday, January 29, 2016

Rupert Not on Board with Airport Task Force

A sign cautions drivers at Burley’s municipal airport. The airport needs more than $2 million in repairs.

RUPERT | The city of Rupert won’t be joining a Mini-Cassia airport task force, for now.

On Jan. 27, Mike Pape, administrator of the Idaho Division of Aeronautics, unsuccessfully tried to sell the Council members on joining a task force, organized by the city of Burley, which would study new locations in Mini-Cassia for a single-runway airport.

Mayor Mike Brown and the Council expressed interest in having the Burley airport relocate but were concerned with a lack of exact figures on the cost.

“I just want to know how much the airport is going to cost and really how much is supported by the FAA and how much is going to be needed from our community,” Brown said.

The estimated total cost for a new airport could be between $15 million and $45 million, Pape said at the meeting.

The Federal Aviation Administration is willing to pay for 90 percent of the airport’s infrastructure, Pape said. This includes a runway, taxiways, aprons where the planes park, lights and markings and access roads.

The Burley Development Authority is willing to buy the existing airport property. Per FAA regulations, money from the sale would fund the new airport.

But in order for plans to move forward, the FAA is requiring the support of the community. Burley officials organized a task force, hoping to get representation from Minidoka and Cassia counties along with Rupert, Heyburn and Paul in an effort to find a new location.

The Burley airport, wedged between silos, a railroad and the river, has no room to expand, Pape said. The runway is small to the point where it’s not safe to land there, he said.

Pape said a new airport would not only address safety issues with the existing airport, but it would be able to service 35,000 people who need one for business, agriculture support and medical use.

Councilman Todd McGhie was concerned with a lack of results from the money spent on site selections. Over the years, the FAA has spent more than $1 million.

“It looks like we’re throwing it away at this point,” he said.

Pape said that while Rupert’s refusal to join the task force does make support for a new airport difficult, he will have to continue to educate citizens and businesses on the benefits of having a new airport.

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