Yes Sir! Yes Sir, McCook will build a 12-foot high fence around our airport. Yes Sir, the citizens of McCook will be happy to pay our share of the $1.7 million fence, latest estimate being only $88,475 from local tax revenue. After all tax money is free and everybody knows we can't be too safe!
Wow what a boondoggle! It is hard to believe that the City Council even considered the tom-fool project, much less failing to reject it out of hand and tell the Feds to pound sand! The plan is a 12-foot high chain link fence, topped with barbed wire, and complete with a four foot deep underground concrete footing to "keep out burrowing rodents"! That fence would be overkill for a prison, much more appropriate for the southern border of Texas. For sure, it would keep out (or in) deer and coyotes or any other of our "dangerous" indigent wild life.
The reason for the project is, of course, to hopefully keep daily "essential air service," the feeder airline that provides round-trip connections to Denver International Airport. As structured, our airline service can only continue to exist with massive infusions of federal cash to keep it in the black. With a Congress long overdue in looking for ways to cut spending, it appears to me that the massive subsidy required to keep "essential air service" intact will soon be history. On its own, there is no way that any feeder airline, as now structured, can compete with the cost of simply driving the short four-hour trip to Denver. With airline service gone, the need for our new airport fence will simply evaporate, but then the City will still be stuck with the ongoing cost of maintaining the monstrosity.
Evidently the requirement for the fence came from a "wildlife study completed in 2010" undoubtedly done by some "expert" who perceived great danger for landing and departing aircraft, especially airliners. The whole project has the odor of something dreamed up by a faceless bureaucrat in the FAA who eyed a huge surplus of unspent Federal gas tax money collected from aviation fuel. It has been my observation over the years that politicians get the itch to spend whenever any large sum of tax money accumulates. This airport fence project smells like another example of scratching that itch.
Many of my dear readers know that this pundit is employed teaching people to fly general aviation aircraft. For the aspiring pilot, one of the most difficult tasks to learn is how to land the aircraft. To learn the skill, repetition seems to be the best teacher. Out of curiosity I researched my log book and was surprised to learn that in the past 12 months I logged 612 takeoffs and 612 landings on the McCook airport. That number of takeoffs and landings is probably about average for me during the past two decades. That same 12-month period most likely includes the time when our visiting "wildlife study" expert was monitoring the airport for his study of dangerous wildlife.
Where is all that dangerous wildlife at the airport? I personally never had an encounter with deer or coyotes in my comings and goings at the airport, but then I have only been using it regularly since 1980. Personally I have no recollection of any wildlife/airplane incidents in all that time, but then I am only a local guy and not far enough from home to be an "expert."
In all honesty I have seen both deer and coyotes on the airport. One time, I observed a herd of about six deer crossing the airport from Kelley Canyon on their way to the canyon on the east side of the airport. Several years ago there was a doe that evidently raised a fawn in that east canyon, but she always stayed clear of any runway. Very early one morning, a couple of weeks ago, I spied a coyote trotting in the grass alongside runway 4-22 and enjoyed watching him grab a mouse for breakfast. Actually, I consider it a privilege to catch a glimpse of wildlife in the wide open space that is our airport.
Now if one wants to clear out a hazard to aircraft, they could address the turkey buzzards that for some reason like to soar over the departure end of runway 22, the flight path that goes southwest over Valmont. I have had to turn to dodge those masters of flight on several occasions. Then, too, our resident population of Canada geese shows no respect and flies right through our traffic patterns. Somehow that 12 foot high fence will have no effect on ameliorating the very real hazard of birds flying near the airport.
Now I am happy to propose a solution to pay the City's share of the airport fence project. We have all noted that well known companies have been privileged to pay part of the cost of construction of sports arenas, football stadiums and the like in exchange for having their names placed on the venue. Recently our airport was officially named the "McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport" in honor of our hometown Senator. I think that it would be appropriate for U. S. Senator Ben Nelson to personally pony up the $88,485 for McCook's share of the cost of that federally mandated project. It would only be fair! But then possibly Senator Ben would make a phone call to the appropriate FAA official pushing this project and it could be stillborn. It richly deserves to be unfunded and committed to the dust bin of history.
That is the way I saw it.