Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Albertus Airport (KFEP) leaders seeking $1.1 million access road

Stan Toepfer, left, talks to Isabel Gastel, Patrick Wichman and Aiden Broenneke before they take off in a Cessna 182 during the Young Eagles Rally on June 10th at Albertus Airport  (KFEP) in Freeport, Stephenson County, Illinois

FREEPORT — Albertus Airport is the first thing some potential developers see when they arrive in Freeport.

That’s one reason airport leaders are requesting $110,000 from City Council to build a new access road to the airport. That investment by the city would make the airport eligible for $1 million in state funding.

The roughly three-quarter-mile road would connect the airport directly with South Baileyville Road. It would make the airport more visible, allow easier access for business owners to get into town and improve the overall perception of the airport, said Darrell Janssen, airport manager.

“The airport is the gateway to the city and creator of the first impression,” Janssen said Monday at a Committee of the Whole meeting. “When a company flies into Freeport and is looking to locate a business or work on business, the first impression they get is the airport and how we’re handling the airport.”

If the road is built, it will give the airport access to roughly 35 acres it already owns that can be used for businesses and hangars. Along with it, the airport would gain access to natural gas and better phone lines in the future.

The road would also allow for previously cost-prohibitive three-phase electricity that powers large machinery. At least one business owner has already expressed an interest in manufacturing at the airport if the road is built, Janssen said.

The airport also needs a new septic system to replace the current one, which is at least 50 years old, Janssen said. If the road project is approved, the septic project could be done at the same time.

“It’s ancient and going to be in need of repair real soon,” he said. “If we don’t get this project, we’re going to have to pay for it on its own. We’re talking $110,000 to get $1.1 million that would also possibly cover a $40,000-$50,000 septic system that we need.”

Alderman Mike Koester, 7th Ward, said he’s leaning toward supporting the road project, but he’s waiting to find out more information about the septic system to see what kind of cost savings could be had. He added that the new road would surely make it easier for drivers to find the airport.

“Right now, you have to follow the signs and know where it’s at to get to it,” he said.

Janssen said there are about 20,000 flight operations at the airport each year. The airport generates about $5.4 million in local economic activity each year, according to a document provided to City Council.

City Manager Lowell Crow said he was not yet sure where the money for the project would come from if City Council approved the project. He and Economic and Community Development Director Nancy McDonald are working with the Northwest Illinois Development Alliance to poll local large employers to determine the economic impact the airport has on their businesses.

City Council has until June to request funding from the state. Alderman Tom Klemm said he wouldn’t make a decision until more information about the total cost of the project was available.

“I think the main thing as we move through the project is to see where the funding can come from,” he said. “We need to take a look at all the sources of the project and the total costs of all of them. What are the real costs?”

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