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Ready for take off
Federal grant approved to rebuild main runway
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A WW II-era B-25 Mitchell bomber lands at the Great Bend Municipal Airport. The City of Great Bend accepted a Federal Aviation Administration grant to reconstruct most of the runway.

Great Bend City Council meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Great Bend City Council did Tuesday night:

• Heard a Sunflower Rod and Custom Association drag strip from Hank Denning. He lamented the sorry condition of the strip and the Great Bend Expo Complex as a whole, noting he believes there needs to be a master maintenance plan established to repair the much-utilized facility.

• Approved updated vacation and holiday policies, both after much discussion and both on a narrow 4-3 vote. Changes reflect recommendations from the city’s compensation study to better align Great Bend with other municipalities. There is also more focus on work-life balance, by adding two extra holidays (Presidents Day and Christmas Eve) and shortening the time it takes to accrue vacation time.

Voting for were council members Dan Heath, Cory Urban, Joel Jackson and Andrew Erb. Voting against were Brock McPherson, Jolene Biggs and Vicki Berryman.

Opponents of the measures were concerned about the cost, especially in light of looming major capital expenses such as the Expo grounds.

The council has already approved raises for city personnel and will address retirement issues at a later date. The idea it to retain existing employees while making Great Bend more attractive to new employees.

• Authorized Mayor Joe Andrasek to sign a grant offer from the Federal Aviation Administration grant for the Great Bend Municipal Airport runway project.

• Heard an economic development report from Chamber President/CEO Jan Peters. She focused on the new Visioning Task Force that is now in place with the theme “Making Great Bend Better than Great.”

• Approved abatements at: 300 Buckeye, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by Domingo Villarral; 300 Plum, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by Jose Prieto; and 909 Stone, motor vehicle nuisance, owned by Jose Alejandro.

• Accepted the resignation of Leilani Schenkel from the Humane Society Board. 

• Approved closing Main Street from 24th to Lakin from 3-4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, for the Great Bend High School homecoming parade.

 The next step in the multi-million-dollar renovation of the Great Bend Municipal Airport’s main north-south runway will be taking off soon, after the Great Bend City Council Monday night authorized Mayor Joe Andrasek to sign a grant with the Federal Aviation Administration to pay for the bulk of the project.

The FAA’s $6,734,361 offer covers 90 percent of the runway replacement, leaving the city to pay for 10 percent of the total cost, or about $782,000. This federal project is for the reconstruction of the south 5,500 feet of the primary runway 17/35, as well as replacement of the associated lighting, Airport Manager Martin Miller said.

Burns and McDonnell of Wichita is the general contractor for the work. Venture Corporation of Great Bend will handle the asphalt paving as a subcontractor.

Even with the $1.1 million in construction supervision fees going to Burns and McDonald, Miller said the project is under original estimates.

Miller said the bids were opened in May. The grant became effective once it was accepted and work will probably start in spring to avoid weather delays. 

The FAA also paid 90 percent of the $546,840 planning/engineering fee covering the south 5,500 feet of the runway. This was done last year.

However, airport Manager Martin Miller said the runway, which dates back to World War II, is 7,851 feet long. This makes it the longest landing strip in central Kansas and among the longest in the state.

In other words, this leaves 2,351 feet not covered by the FAA funding. So, the city would have been responsible for 100 percent of the design and reconstruction of the remainder, Miller said.

However, Great Bend received a grant through the Kansas Department of Transportation Aviation Division. This will cover 90 percent, or $550,102, of the additional stretch, with the city covering $55,000.

So, in all, the city will pay about $837,000 to have both the southern and northern portions of the runway rebuilt, Miller said. The total cost of the project came in at about $200,000 under estimates.

It is important to maintain the runway at its full length, Miller has noted.

The long runway, Great Bend’s central location and low fuel prices here make the airport an ideal stop for cross-county pilots. This is especially true for the larger planes that require more room for their take-offs.

Now, Centerline Aviation (the fixed-base operator that sells fuel) pays the city about $26,000 per year, fuel taxes bring in about $17-20,000 annually for Great Bend and sales taxes generate another $2,300. A lot of this might evaporate with a shorter runway and less traffic, Miller said.

In addition, aircraft, like the B-29 that will fly in for the Airfest, could not use the airport with a reduced landing strip.

The new runway has a life expectancy of over 20 years.