Airport Closure Request Remains on Table - The Missourian: Local News

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Airport Closure Request Remains on Table

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Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 7:15 am

City Attorney Kurt Voss told the St. Clair Board of Aldermen that the Federal Aviation Administration still is reviewing the latest documentation sent by the administration regarding closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport and a formal complaint filed against the city.

Voss informed the board during a meeting last month, but really had no new information.

“The FAA continued its review until July to give a response to the city’s closure request,” Voss said.

City officials have been hoping for a timely closure decision after City Administrator Rick Childers sent another packet of information to the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division, which is the liaison between St. Clair and the FAA. Childers also said additional correspondence has taken place this month.

“Everything is all part of the FAA’s closure requirements,” the city administrator said.

However, Childers also said that although related, there currently are three “different issues” on the table relating to the airport and the closure request.

“We have the request itself,” Childers told The Missourian in late June. “We have the combination of the MoDOT Aviation facility inspection and the informal complaints made by the tenants. And, we have the Part 16 filing, which basically is a lawsuit filed against the city through the FAA and the Office of the Inspector General.

“They’re all the same issue, but really are different things. The comments Mr. Voss made were in relation to the Part 16 complaint, which he is handling because it’s a legal process.”

The Part 16 complaint was filed last year by airport tenant Jim DeVries of Pacific. It alleges “noncompliance by the city of St. Clair Regional Airport, the sponsor of the airport, of its obligations under federal law applicable to the operation of an airport.”

The city also received a letter in May from Amy Ludwig, MoDOT’s administer of aviation. It deals with the facility inspection.

“The corrective actions ... demonstrate that the city has made significant progress in addressing the action items contained in (various letters),” Ludwig wrote. “However, there are still a few items that must be addressed in order for the city’s corrective action plan to be accepted by MoDOT and the FAA.”

Ludwig then outlines those actions, which include spraying weeds in runway and apron cracks, continued rotating beacon maintenance and more information on hangar storage. There also is mention of the lease agreement between the city and AirEvac Lifeteam, an air helicopter service located at the facility.

“As soon as a response is received on these remaining items, I will coordinate with the FAA to determine whether the city’s corrective action plan is acceptable,” Ludwig wrote.

Despite Ludwig’s latest letter, MoDOT in March stated it is “not opposed” to closing the 80-acre facility located between Interstate 44 and Highway 47 on the north side of town.

At that time, Childers and Mayor Ron Blum received a copy of a letter from MoDOT saying it will not stand in the way of the city and its quest to close the airport. Interim Director David B. Nichols sent the letter to the FAA on March 22 stating that “because the city has made its desire clear, MoDOT will not oppose the city’s request to close the airport.”

The MoDOT letter was sent by Nichols to Jim Johnson, Airports Division manager of the FAA’s Central Region in Kansas City.

Shortly after that notice was received, Childers sent correspondence to Ludwig in response to the latest round of requests from MoDOT and the FAA regarding airport compliance. He also asked her to forward any of the information “as appropriate” to the FAA.

In late December, both MoDOT and the FAA sent the city information regarding various operations and maintenance items with recommendation for corrections. The FAA said in its correspondence that “the agency will not consider closing St. Clair Regional Airport ... until the city corrects deficiencies at the airport.”

The administration needs permission to close the facility located on the north side of town between Interstate 44 and Highway 47 because the city obtained federal grant monies, as late as 2006, to make repairs at the airport. The St. Clair administration, including its board of aldermen, want to use the airport land for retail development.

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