Airport improvements could take off

Jason Ferguson
Within the next 10 years, it’s possible the Custer County Airport could have 10 new hangars, a wider and longer runway and a new parking lot, according to a presentation given by Kent Penney of KLJ Engineering at the Feb. 5 meeting of the Custer County Commission.
The possibilities are dependent on what the county is willing to spend and how much money the state and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are willing to grant for the projects, but there is room for considerable growth and upgrades, Penney said while presenting the airport’s master plan.
The plan is a comprehensive study that describes the short-, medium- and long-term plans to meet future aviation demand. The plan includes an Electronic Airport Layout Plan, which is required for an airport to be considered for federal funding.
Penney, along with fellow KLJ  planner Amber Channel, gave a PowerPoint presentation describing the possibilities, which includes widening and lengthening the runway to 6,200 feet long and 75 feet wide. Penney said the FAA is on board with widening the runway because of the airport’s unique and varying winds, which can make landing planes more difficult.
Penney said it is preferable to keep the runway at its current location while building a taxiway and turn-around alongside the runway. Doing so would require an easement or land acquisition on land to the south for a fence that would accommodate planes with wingspans up to 79 feet.
An alternative could see the runway shortened by 135 feet and shifted to the west, with land acquisition still needed to the south for a fence, but no fencing needed on other adjacent property. The runway could be improved without a taxiway or turnaround, but Penney said this alternative is not recommended.
The plan also calls for the west end of the runway to be lowered and the apron area expanded to the west for transient aircraft and single-engine aircraft tanker operations. The current transient hangar would be replaced with a new 100x100-foot hangar, reconstruction of the parking lot and access road as well as extended taxi lanes to the south for hangars.
The runway work would carry a price tag of $10.2 million, $9.155 million of which could potentially be paid for by the FAA, with $355,900 being paid for by the state and the county covering $661,100, roughly 6.5 percent of cost. Proposed terminal area work would cost another $1.4 million. Of the total cost of $11.6 million projected for both projects, the county would be required to pay $842,000.
Penney said to pay for the local portion of the project, the county could seek help from the city and use previous land acquisitions for the airport in 2012, 2018 and 2020 as in-kind match. Income from the airport such as leases, fuel income, aircraft storage, etc., could also be considered.
The county and KLJ will meet with FAA officials to discuss the plan in early March to gauge the FAA’s willingness to help fund any or all of the plan. Penney emphasized the plan does not commit the county to any of the construction or projected costs, but rather puts the possibilities at the airport on the FAA’s radar for consideration.
The commission also heard from the county’s director of equalization, Leah Vissia, who presented a letter that will be sent to county taxpayers with their assessments that discuss changes that have been corrected for this assessment year, 2020, payable 2021 taxes.
The letter states there have been some errors that have occurred for the renewable resource applications concerning solar panels and geothermal heating. The properties with these exemptions have been reviewed and corrected. Some were not being assessed for solar panels or geothermal heating and some were to go off the exemption.
The letter cites the codified law concerning renewable energy.
The letter also states discrepancies were noticed on some properties classified as owner occupied. State law states if you own and occupy your home you may claim owner occupied and a lower mil levy and therefore taxes will be lower for the house and one garage.
“I have found that if you are owner occupied, all of your buildings are also classed owner occupied instead of the house and one garage,” the letter reads. “Your value will not change due to owner occupied status being removed from accessory structures.”
Finally, the letter tells about a recent resolution the commission passed to make it so detached manufactured steel carports 360 square feet or less base footprint with no more than a roof cover and two sides, anchored to the ground by manufacturer’s specifications and with no improvements, such as a heating system, air conditioning, ventilation, sanitation, electricity or plumbing which is part of the structure and concrete slab floor are not taxed. 
Also free from taxes will be any detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, shipping containers, playhouses, greenhouses and similar structures if the base footprint is 160 square feet or less and if such structures include no improvements.

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