Future of Waverly Regional Airport is up in the air - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Future of Waverly Regional Airport is up in the air

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WAVERLY (KWWL) -- An Eastern Iowa community is on the verge of losing its regional airport, and with it the $1.5 million dollars it contributes to Waverly's economy.

On Monday, the Waverly City Council voted not to move ahead with plans to lengthen the airport's runway. That's after surrounding property owners voiced concerns about receiving a fair price for their land.

"I am a pilot and a farmer, so I see both sides of the issue here," said Mark Mueller.

Mueller has two very different points of view -- one from the air, and one from the ground. He rents a plane at Waverly Regional Airport on a regular basis, and agrees the runway is simply too short.

"But on the flip side, as a farmer, I would not want my land to be taken away," Mueller added.

Mueller's position is much like the one the City Council took with its "no" vote. But airport manager Brian Curtis believes the council does not realize what their "no" vote means for the community.

"Potentially, the FAA could cut off funding for the airport," Curtis said.

The city will have to extend the runway eventually in order for larger planes, including the main company stationed out of Waverly, to continue using the airport. But only by about 400 feet.

The real issue is the safety zone on either side of the runway. The city is going to have to purchase land from several property owners, and acquire one home, in order to keep up with FAA standards -- standards set in the late 1970s.

"Since then they've tried to bring airports that are not compliant with the minimum, the new minimum safety standards, they've tried to bring those up to meet the standards. Currently they had reached 76% compliance. They hope to, by the end of the year, reach 86%. And they intend to have 100% compliance by 2015," said Curtis.

So if the council doesn't reconsider, the FAA will stop funding the airport, potentially within five years, and the company that operates out of Waterloo will find a new location. Leaving its employees, like Brian Curtis, up in the air.

"I believe it will be the end of my job. And who knows what the future of the airport will be," he said.

Curtis says the city will have to submit a plan to the FAA by mid-December.

Mueller believes most farmers would consider selling, as long as they are given a fair, if not generous, price for their land. The city needs to own the land to prevent unwanted growth. But they would lease it back to the original property owners, who could continue farming as usual.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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