City takes steps to acquire land

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 1, 2000

At last, at least a year late, the city of Austin is taking the first baby steps in the process of acquiring lands for its airport expansion project.

Tuesday, August 01, 2000

At last, at least a year late, the city of Austin is taking the first baby steps in the process of acquiring lands for its airport expansion project. Four properties have been appraised, and two of those have already passed the review appraiser too. The next step should be for the city to acquire the property.

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There’s only one problem. The federal government and the state have yet to actually come through with the funding.

Although the U.S. Congress approved the bill that included the funding months ago, and the city of Austin is slated to receive at least $2.2 million this fiscal year for its airport expansion project, the city probably won’t actually see the money until the next fiscal year.

City Engineer Jon Erichson wants the city to go ahead and buy at least a few of the properties before the funding comes through.

"Some of the homeowners are anxious to move," Erichson told the council Airport committee at its Monday meeting. The committee is made up of chairman Dick Chaffee and members Dick Lang and Roger Boughton. "My question is, would the city be willing to front the money, knowing that it would be reimbursed at the end of the year probably?" Erichson asked the committee.

The answer was an undecided "maybe."

Before they will approve any early purchases the council members wanted a better idea of how many property owners would be ready to accept an offer in the very near future and how much those properties would amount to.

Erichson said he would ask the company doing the acquisitions, W.D. Shock, to find out who was ready and who wasn’t.

The proposed expansion centers around extending the existing runway to the south. The expanded runway would also require an expanded safety zone, which means the acquisition by the city of Austin of 17 homes and 228 acres of farmland.

Erichson explained the negatives of buying with city money before the actual grant money comes through.

"By fronting the acquisition, you lose potential interest earnings on that money," Erichson said, estimating those losses at about $15,000. "And you may find that you’re only able to fund the first three parcels, for example, but none of the others could be a part of any early acquisition."

City Director of Administrative Services Tom Dankert said he could loan the city up to $500,000 from the General Fund plus the $250,000 set aside in the airport account, "as long as no new projects come on line."

"That includes any new ball diamonds," Dankert said, explaining that the city already had more than $37 million set aside for different projects.

The engineer will come back to the committee when he has an itemized list of any properties that could be purchased first.

In other business, the airport committee approved a hangar site and the extension of city services and a road for the Hormel Foods Corp. The meat packing company is the primary user of the airport, flying three corporate jets in and out of the municipal airport. The city is planning to buy the current Hormel hangar for its own use, and the Fortune 500 company would like to build a larger hangar near the new runway. Negotiations for their own fueling station are also under way for the company. In a letter to Erichson, Hormel Director of Logistics Carroll King, wrote that the company would like to have the new hangar operational by March.