St. Clair workers painted yellow X’s on the runway Tuesday morning to mark the closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport.
The doors were locked and the lights were shut off Monday, according to City Administrator Travis Dierker.
“It’s (been) a long time in the making and there’s been a lot of people involved,” Dierker told The Missourian.
Along with support from the community and Mayor Ron Blum, he commended past and present board of aldermen members who played a role in the closure of the airport.
“We’ve had multiple members on the board of aldermen throughout the past 10 years (who) have been involved in making decisions to make it proceed forward,” Dierker said.
He also gave credit to the two previous city administrators for the closure, as well as QED consultants.
Once the X’s are complete, an official closure email will be sent to the city from the Federal Aviation Administration, he said.
The next step will be turning the property over to the city’s Industrial Development Authority to discuss options for developing the land, according to Dierker. The group consists of five committee members.
The behind the scenes work on how to develop the land may take a few years, he said.
“It will take some time. We’ll keep everybody updated as best as possible,” he said.
During the Nov. 6 board of aldermen meeting, the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission approved the sale of the airport’s physical assets. The commission received a check from the city for any airport and city funds.
An agreement for the permanent closure with the commission was signed Nov. 1. A notice to the pilots was also sent out. Their leases ended Oct. 29.
The airport closing has been in the works since 2006, when city officials started pushing for legislation that would allow them to close the airport.
Sen. Claire McCaskill sponsored SB 2759, which she introduced to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 31, 2014, during the 113th session of Congress.
It passed out of that committee without comment and was forwarded to the full Senate that September. Sen. Roy Blunt, co-sponsored the bill.
The Senate approved the legislation in early December of 2014, and the House of Representatives approved it Dec. 9. In both chambers, the measure passed on a voice vote. U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer worked the bill through the House.
Online information about the bill states it was passed by both chambers in identical form.
SB 2759 states that it is “a bill to release the city of St. Clair from all restrictions, conditions and limitations on the use, encumbrance, conveyance and closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport.”
Additional language in the bill provides details regarding the closure process and the transfer of assets, revenues and equipment as well as the monetary value of the property and the worth of the unamortized federal grants turned over to MoDOT and the FAA.
The legislation is a stand-alone bill, meaning there is nothing else attached to it. Former President Barack Obama signed the bill Dec. 12, 2014.
The closure has been a priority of Blum’s administration since he first took office in 2007. His goal is to have the land developed for retail use, but there also could be some industry developed on the 135 acres of property, all located within city limits.
The land where the airport sits, between Interstate 44 and Highway 47 on the north side of the city, is included in a tax increment financing district that was approved by the board of aldermen in 2009.
A TIF is a public financing method for municipalities using future gains in taxes to finance current improvements which theoretically will create the conditions for those future gains. It allows for redevelopment and community improvement projects.
In May, an environmental assessment necessary to close the airport was completed. A “finding of no significant impact” notice for the airport’s environmental assessment can be found at the St. Clair Scenic Regional Library and through the Federal Aviation Administration.
As part of the closing process, the land must meet the requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.
One of the requirements included an environmental assessment that would check the ground for wetlands, artifacts, endangered species, hazardous waste and other issues that could impact the ground.
In 2015, the city hired a company to perform an environmental assessment, which was submitted and approved in May.
During an October meeting, the board approved a release agreement ordinance with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and the Federal Aviation Administration for the permanent closure of the airport.
The ordinance states that the city has met all of the requirements in the closing process and all parties are in agreement of the closure.
The board also approved an agreement with Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for the transfers and disposition of airport equipment and facilities.
Salvageable equipment from the airport must be given to MoDOT Aviation. Other airports will be able to submit bids for the items.
Some of those items are the maintenance hangar, 10-unit T-hangar, the beacon, antique beacon, the lighting system, power supply, a radiant tube heater and more. Dierker said any leftover items will be the city’s property.
The bidding process began after Nov. 1 and the items will be removed by the end of the year.
During the Oct. 2 meeting, the board voted 4-0 in favor of approving an ordinance to redirect airport funding. Missouri airports have the option to apply for funds through the Missouri Department of Transportation that can be used for upgrades and projects.
The funds originally came from the Federal Aviation Administration and airports have to match a certain amount. Although the funds are not guaranteed, Dierker said this ordinance allows for the monies to go toward other airports in the state, rather than going back to the FAA.
This particular ordinance has been passed annually since the city started the closure process for the airport.