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Jefferson City Memorial Airport open, but terminal remains closed

Jefferson City Memorial Airport open, but terminal remains closed

July 12th, 2019 by Nicole Roberts in News

Several planes have once again returned to the facilities at Jefferson City Memorial Airport. A driver from Columbia Regional Airport operating a heavy street brush makes one of numerous passes Thursday to remove the remaining dried mud on the tarmac at the Jefferson City airport. Columbia's airport has provided manpower and equipment to assist in the local airport's cleanup after the second round of flooding. The tarmac is now open for airplane parking and at least one runway is open for takeoff and landing.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

While the Jefferson City Memorial Airport is now open, the airport terminal was damaged enough during the flood that it will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

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Airplanes were landing and taking off Thursday morning after the Jefferson City Memorial Airport reopened for daytime traffic Wednesday. Jefferson City Flying Services was open for business and clients with private hangars who were busy cleaning them Thursday.

"It's great being able to see the aircrafts coming into the airport because we were closed for 51 days," airport manager Ron Craft said. "It is good to be back open even though we are very limited. That's a good thing but there's still a lot of work left to do."

City staff still has to evaluate the runway lighting and control tower that were damaged during the flood, Craft and Jefferson City Public Works Director Matt Morasch said.

The city must also decide what to do with the airport terminal, which sustained massive damage.

Lower portions of the walls inside the airport terminal were ripped out and resting in piles on the muddy, wet floor Thursday morning. A strong musty smell hung in the air, partnered with mold throughout the dark terminal.

The airport is in a floodplain and must follow the FEMA's substantial improvement rule, which states property owners of structures in a floodplain can't make improvements totaling more than 50 percent of the structures' values.

Cleaning and repairs to the terminal will "easily" exceed 50 percent of the building's value and the city will need to bring it into compliance, Morasch told the Jefferson City Public Works and Planning Committee on Thursday.

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"What that boils down to is that building isn't going to come back in its present form," he said. "We don't know what that looks like yet, but certainly, it would need to be compliant with the floodplain management codes and that involves shielding or elevating or a lot of different things. Depending on the extent of the damage, it may be better to start new."

The city is working on a new master plan for the airport, which could provide some guidance, Morasch said. City staff also has to consider costs and funding sources, he added.

Until the city decides what to do with the terminal, Morasch said, the building will remain closed. He added he was unsure when it would reopen.

Nick's Family Restaurant, previously housed in the terminal, is looking for a new space, Morasch said. Restaurant staff removed its equipment from the terminal, he added.

The airport staff will miss having Nick's Family Restaurant at the airport, Craft said, especially since many pilots and passengers ate at the restaurant.

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"A really good restaurant like Nick's is valuable to the airport and in the case of our restaurant, they have such a huge following from the local community," he said. "It was great having them there in the terminal building and it will be really unfortunate to see them relocate."

The Jefferson City Memorial Airport had been closed for about six weeks.

The airport generates revenue through rent, lease and flowage fees. The city normally transfers General Fund money into the Airport Division Fund to help support the operation, according to the 2019 fiscal year budget.

In the 2017 fiscal year, the airport generated $594,067, but had $721,046 in expenses, according to the adopted 2019 fiscal year budget.

The Capital View Levee also sustained five or six large breaches, with the largest one being about 1,000 feet long, Morasch said. He added there are likely smaller issues city staff and members of the Capitol View Levee District have yet to discover.

"That's a work in progress and will probably take some time to repair, so that area is still susceptible to flooding," Morasch said, adding it may take more than a year to repair.

Water is still preventing members of the levee district from reconstructing the levee, Morasch said.

Morasch said he does not know how much it will cost to fix the levee.

Floodwaters breached the Capital View Levee around May 24. The levee can hold about 30 feet.