Mahaska County Votes to Withdraw from Agreement to Build Airport

MAHASKA COUNTY, Iowa -- The Mahaska County Board of Supervisors has voted to withdraw from an agreement it had entered into with the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa to build a regional airport.

Today the supervisors passed a resolution (signed-resolution-exiting-28e-agreement) by a vote of 2-1 that expresses intent to remove Mahaska County from the 28E agreement between the county and the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa.

Supervisor Mark Doland introduced the resolution. "I'm opposed to the use of eminent domain for the airport project," said Doland. "I've been opposed to the project from its inception. There's virtually no public support for it at all. It`s certainly being driven by the political class, but that`s not the group that I represent," said Doland.

Supervisor Willie Van Weelden voted against the resolution to remove the county from the original agreement. "I'm not for eminent domain for government to take a piece of land, any kind of land, and then give it to a developer to develop, but if it's for governmental purposes, which this airport is, then I don`t have a problem with it because if you didn't have eminent domain, a lot of roads wouldn't get built, a lot of things wouldn't happen," said Van Weelden.

The original agreement was signed in 2012, making Mahaska County and the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa parties to the proposed airport. The South Central Regional Airport would be built on nearly 600 acres of prime farmland north of highway 163 and west of Oskaloosa.

"We have existing airports that meet the needs of the people who are in the business world. Musco in Oskaloosa is the one that's Mahaska County, that I would be most directly affected by and essentially he keeps his plane in Ottumwa and I would argue it's only about ten minutes closer to have this regional airport if it's built," said Supervisor Doland.

"We build an airport because Pella Corp., Musco Lighting, they do business worldwide. Vermeer does business worldwide, and it’s their, that's the way they do business," said Supervisor Van Weelden. "If you go back and read the environmental report, this was started because Federal Aviation said 'Pella, you can no longer land a certain class of jet there in adverse conditions and you need to fix your airport,' and the solution was to relocate," said Van Weelden.

Now the ball is in the court of Pella and Oskaloosa, as those cities will have to decide whether to accept the resolution and let Mahaska County exit the agreement.