Guest Columnist

Improved Marion airport is key to future growth

A small aircraft takes off from the runway at the Marion Airport in Marion in Marion on Tuesday, July 25, 2017.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A small aircraft takes off from the runway at the Marion Airport in Marion in Marion on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The Marion Airport is a valued community asset supporting the current and future growth of the city and surrounding area.

In an effort to promote regional growth and enhance airport operations, the Marion Municipal Airport Committee (MMAC) has been diligently working with the city’s engineer, planning and zoning members, the responsible airport engineering firm and other entities.

The MMAC has been working hard to present the most technically feasible engineering plan commensurate with Iowa DOT and FAA guidelines.

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation manual, “Iowa Airport Directory,” numerous communities with one-tenth to two-thirds of Marion’s population have an airport with two or more modern concrete or asphalt runways with proper lighting, communications and signage.

For example, the manual states that Shenandoah, Iowa, (SDA) (Pop. 5,546) has two concrete runways, one 5,000 feet and another 3,299 feet, both with widths of 75 feet.

However, the Marion Municipal Airport has only one poorly maintained asphalt runway of 3,775 feet with a narrow width of 23 feet, no radio navigation, no automated weather reporting avionics, no rotating beacon, and no dependable runway lighting system.

Apparently, communities such as Shenandoah actually value air transportation and realize that modern community airports result in an increase in business, jobs, and higher land valuations.

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The City Council (except for Council member Will Brandt) voted July 2 to evade the city’s responsibility to improve and expand the airport as per the original 2017 Airport Layout Plan. Instead, they voted only to approve reconstruction of the 3.775-foot north-south runway with an extension of 225 feet.

One council member stated his constituency had expressed a preference for spending toward projects other than the airport. I live in his council district and have yet to be asked where I think city funds should be spent.

It appears the Marion City Council would rather spend money on expensive traffic bottlenecks, such as the roundabouts, or give $7.3 million to a YMCA facility that has yet to be built.

My view is that if Marion wants to grow and prosper, the Marion City Council needs to place a much greater emphasis on airport improvements and devote more funding and promotion to said airport.

l Phillip Legate of Marion is an aerospace scientist and avionics engineer and a member of the Marion Municipal Airport Committee. His column reflects his personal views and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any other Marion government official or any other MMAC committee members.

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