Airport board, council discuss need to increase Monona Airport funding

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By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

Members of the Monona Airport Board went before the Monona Council Aug. 17, concerned about an Oct. 1 deadline that challenged them to develop options to increase funding at the airport before the council determines if the property should be put up for sale. 

A potential buyer approached the city about purchasing the airport property, which is located three miles southeast of Monona, earlier this summer. Declining revenue and a drop in use has forced the council to seriously consider the idea.

“It came as a surprise to me that somebody wanted to buy it and that we had until Oct. 1 to turn it around. We’ve been in the dark until now,” said Ron Fiddler.

The airport was designed to fund itself, but the account balance dropped 50 percent over the past year, from $8,811.19 to $4,815.70, according to Monona City Administrator Barb Collins. If that trend continues, by next year, it would be down to $0, she added. The city would then be faced with funding it.

“If it does get to the point where the city has to put money into it just to keep it going, knowing there’s a handful of people who use it—it’s like using tax money from 1,000 people to pay for something that 20 people are going to use. That doesn’t make sense,” said councilman Preston Landt. “But if we can get to the point where we don’t have to put money in it, where the upkeep can be taken care of and the account doesn’t drop by 50 percent every year, then why not.”

Member Tim Walters said the board has proposed raising rent and getting its own mower, then having volunteers mow the property to cut costs. The group also plans to bring back the pancake breakfast fundraiser.

“It’s not easy to turn around,” he admitted. “There aren’t many planes out there, and there aren’t new pilots coming into the sport.”

Board members said they would even be willing to purchase the property, just to keep it as an airport. Outside of Elkader, which is a private facility that can be used by the public, there are no other airports in Clayton County.

“We’d hate to see it go,” said Fiddler. “I personally think, if us as a board, with the city council, put our heads together, we can turn it around.”

The members said communication is key to that. The attendees claimed they were confused by the monthly reports they’ve been given, that they weren’t aware of the severity of the situation.

“We have given reports every month, and you’re always welcome to come to us and ask questions,” said Collins. “For us, too, we don’t look at things until we notice it’s losing money. We didn’t go out soliciting. It was a shock for us. But as the council, we have to bring it out to the public.”

Collins noted the Oct. 1 deadline isn’t set in cement—it’s a starting point. Since the airport has at least one additional year of funding left, the council could weigh its options, giving the board more time to increase funds as long as they’re making progress and taking the situation seriously.

Outside creating a plan, the board ultimately has no say on what happens to the airport.

“It’s just like all our other boards. You make a decision, then it comes to the council and the council makes the final decision,” Collins explained.

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