Sale of Monona Municipal Airport again up for consideration

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By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


The fate of the Monona Municipal Airport was again up for debate at the Feb. 20 Monona City Council meeting. With just one plane—which belongs to the airport manager—in residence, the city is considering whether to sell the property.


The topic has been discussed multiple times over the past few years, as the airport board has worked to improve its finances amid declining use of the space.


According to Monona City Administrator Barb Collins, the airport strip is 21.687 acres and is surrounded by farmland. The financial situation was positive at the end of the past year “because of the farmland rent we got,” she said.


Should the city decide to sell, there is interest in the property, Collins noted.


Airport board member Chad Davis asked the council to consider the decision carefully.


“You guys own an airport. How many towns own an airport?” he questioned. “You can sell it and use the money for something else in Monona, but once it’s sold, it’s sold. You’ll never have the opportunity again.”


Davis speculated the loss of airplanes at the Monona Municipal Airport could be attributed to rumors of its closure.


“Will we get airplanes back out there? It’s hard to say because, when there’s rumors of an airport for sale, no one wants to have their airplane sitting in a hangar that might not be there. I think that’s why there’s one airplane left out there,” he said.


“But we didn’t really talk about doing it until the point where nobody was keeping anything out there anymore,” countered council member Preston Landt. “There were still a couple planes out there until recently.”


Davis recalled fond childhood memories of watching the planes and attending the fly-in breakfasts.


“It takes people to sponsor and do that kind of stuff, but it’s stuff I think the community would really enjoy, and I think there would be a lot of sad people who would miss the airport. Maybe right now it’s not such a lucrative thing to have, but what’s 10 years going to be like?” he wondered. “Twenty years down the road, what’s going to be the need for an airport and what’s going to be the cost to replace that airport?”


“It’s tough because there’s a lot of nostalgia,” said mayor Grant Langhus.


But the city also has to consider its finances, stated Collins. While Monona has invested in its trail system, Gateway Park campground and other amenities, those all directly benefit residents.


“It was a group from the city who originally purchased the land and got it going. But it hasn’t been a benefit to the city for quite awhile,” she said. “These are city funds being paid for by the residents of Monona...We’re using city funds to fund something that’s not advantageous to the city at this time.”


“It was great when we had the air clubs, and it served its purpose,” Collins continued, “and nobody can tell what the future is, but we also have to look at where things are now, what’s the cost of farmland. Is it better for our coffers to do something in town and replace something for our residents to use?”


Landt agreed.


“I like that the city has [an airport], but I’d also like it to get used for something. It doesn’t do a whole lot sitting there. If we can figure out a way to get it used and get it going, I’m all about that,” he said. “But if we get enough planes out there for positive cash flow, then how much money are we going to have to put in the buildings to make it so they can maintain a plane and feel secure?”


 The declining interest in flying isn’t unique to Monona. Collins said the Waukon and West Union airports also cited concerns. West Union is on the brink of not having enough planes to sustain the airport.


Langhus wondered if an advertising push encouraging fly-in tourism to Monona could help, but acknowledged that could be costly and take time.


The airport board currently has two members, but needs five to be fully operational. By adding new members, he said the board could help gauge public interest in the airport.


“We all here could want the airport, but if the people who voted don’t want it, we have to listen to them too,” Langhus said.


He stressed last week’s meeting was only for consideration.


“It would be fair to get some more numbers, get a plan. Marinate for a couple months, then reconsider,” he added.

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