MARION, Iowa — A group is fighting to save the Marion Airport for future generations.
Right now, the facility is privately owned by Jan Walton. It’s located on the east side of Marion at 1710 Marion Airport Road.
Jan and her husband Perry ran the airport together until his death about a year and a half ago. Jan’s been looking for a little help with the airport since her husband’s death. That’s where the city might come in.
Investors are teaming up with Jan to propose a private/public partnership to the city, with the city owning a portion of the airport facilities.
“It’s great being up in the air. It’s the freedom. I enjoy instructing. I enjoying watching the people learn. I enjoy watching the kids go up for their first airplane ride, their first helicopter ride,” said Walton.
She said the airport is her pride and joy, but she knows it’s time for change.
“The airport itself has gotten too big for just me to run it,” Walton said.
A group called Genesis Equities is working with the longtime owner to develop a plan.
After a presentation at the Marion City Council meeting Tuesday night, they invited council members to leave their chambers and tour the airport. That’s because the group is asking the city to consider becoming a partial owner.
“They really want to explore the possibility of having kind of a public/private partnership out there, which would be a little bit unique. Most of the other airports in Iowa are either wholly owned by the city or another government unit or else they are privately held, and this one we’d be looking at some kind of a hybrid,” said City Manager Lon Pluckhahn.
“The private entity would continue to operate out of the FBO building and the city really would only own the runway and the FBO building itself. So, there would be private hangars, private business that would continue to have access to the runway and feed off it, but also be able to pay property taxes,” said Hannah Kustes with Genesis Equities of Marion.
Project leaders said if the city steps in, that opens up the door to state and federal grant money that isn’t available for private airports.
Investors are already looking at plans to fix up the airport, including building a new runway for bigger aircraft.
After Tuesday’s tour, the airport supporters will be working to convince the city it’s a worthwhile project to invest in.
For Jan, she just wants to make sure future generations can enjoy it as much as she has.
“Everybody enjoys coming out here and watching the planes take off and land,” Walton said.
Project leaders said if this moves forward, the city would have to purchase the portion of the airport they would own.
The city manager said, whatever the city decides to do, it would like this to be a “revenue neutral project” or a “revenue positive project.”
The council will consider whether to move forward with negotiations at Thursday’s council meeting.