By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Safety has to be at the forefront of any airport, large or small, and Ottumwa Regional Airport has taken a step to make flying safe for everyone and everything involved.
Airport officials, along with the Ottumwa Ambassador's Committee, a representative from Congressman Dave Loebsack's office and several city officials, met Monday afternoon to break ground on a project that will not only make sure people are safe, but animals are too. A 26,000-foot wildlife fence will soon surround the perimeter of the airfield but not the entire property.
The fence is necessary to keep animals away from the runways, where they could potentially create havoc on landing or ascending airplanes. According to Tom Francis, Airport Maintenance Supervisor, one incident a few years ago is the driving force behind erecting the fence. Apparently, a deer got onto one of the runways and was struck by an airplane, causing approximately $300,000 in damage to the plane and understandably more damage to the deer.
Funding for the fence, which will stand 10 feet tall all the way around with added barbed wire on the top, is coming from a government grant totaling $419,791. Congressman Loebsack announced on Sept. 9 that the Department of Transportation was giving Ottumwa Regional Airport the grant to help maintain safety and economic development of the area. Thanks to the grant and the airport being self-sufficient, there will be no tax dollars required for construction of the fence.
The airport usually budgets for one major project a year, and this year’s is the fence. Future projects are currently in the planning stage, according to Francis.
Development at the airport has been steady over recent years. With help from Indian Hills Community College, the area has been bringing in businesses by the plenty, and helps teach necessary skills to some students interested in aeronautics and other trades.
Buildings on the grounds have been home to many businesses through the years, local and corporate. After FedEx Ground left building #70 vacant a little over a year ago, the door was open for a local business, Bridge City Truck Repair. Now, they are hoping to begin work soon, owner Joe Wiley in a previous Courier interview.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh