McCOOK, Nebraska -- The $1.7 million price tag on the FAA mandated wildlife fence at McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport may finally be coming back down to earth. Public Works Director Kyle Potthoff told members of the Airport Advisory Commission, Thursday afternoon during their regularly scheduled meeting at Heritage Senior Center, that it seemed as if a light-bulb had come on over the heads of some FAA decision-makers.
While Potthoff said nothing had yet been made official about loosening up the requirements for the fence, he said it seems as though the message that the fence was a wildlife fence only and not a multi-use security fence like many other airports have, was finally getting through.
Potthoff reiterated that nothing was yet official, but said he had the impression they were back down to the original 8-foot fence height, with a foot of barbed wire on top.
Former city manager Kurt Fritsch told McCook city council members in May, that the FAA was requiring the airport build a 12 foot fence with an additional 4-feet underground.
Potthoff said Thursday, that he believed the four-foot underground requirement would also be lessened, probably requiring some sort of skirting, but he wasn't sure where that would end up either. Potthoff also said the FAA was reviewing the city's request to install a wire mesh, as opposed to a chain-link fence, which would further reduce the cost.
Board member Richard Stull said he was pleased to hear the fence price was coming down. "The city of McCook has better things to spend their money on than a wildlife fence for commercial air service that we very well may be losing soon. It's a lot of money and it's not just city money, we all pay for it," said Stull.
Potthoff said there was little to report pertaining to Sen. Ben Nelson's efforts to prevent the loss of essential air service at airports that averaged fewer than 10 passengers per day. The U.S. Senate passed a bill in February that would eliminate commercial air service to McCook, Chadron and Alliance due to a 10 passenger requirement. Potthoff said he might have new information by the end of June.