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Burley wants state law changed to help it build a new airport
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Burley wants state law changed to help it build a new airport

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BURLEY — City officials are collecting support letters to change legislation that could pave the way for Minidoka County and Cassia County to work together to establish an airport authority.

The new legislation would allow the two counties to put an airport authority proposal on a ballot, which voters would have to pass with a simple majority, Burley City Administrator Mark Mitton said Tuesday during a Cassia County Commissioners meeting.

Idaho airport authority laws allow three or more counties to join together to form an airport authority, but Cassia and Minidoka counties do not have another adjoining county that does not already have an airport.

Sen. Kelly Anthon, R-Declo, introduced the same regional airport authority legislation last year, Mitton said, but the legislation stalled in committee.

Once established, Mitton said, any funding requests made by the airport authority would have to pass with two-thirds voter approval.

“It would be an additional property tax,” Mitton said.

The commissioners did not immediately make a decision on the request. Cassia County Commissioner Kent Searle said he wanted to look at the site maps again to see if there were changes.

Mitton told the Times-News Tuesday in an email that the site map is a general layout and changes have not been made since the master plan was done.

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Burley officials have tried for more than two decades to build a new airport to replace the city’s municipal airport, which is landlocked as the city grew up around it.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it will not continue to fund the current airport because of its short runways.

City officials previously said the city can’t afford to keep the airport open without the federal funds.

In 2016, a task force with members from both counties identified two possible sites for a new airport, including one south of Interstate 84 and Exit 216.

Mitton said the city has gathered a stack of support letters so far for the legislation change, including ones from the cities of Paul, Heyburn and Burley along with businesses like McCain Foods, Gem State Process, D.L. Evans Bank, Standridge Color Corp. and the Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce. Others are expected soon.

He will meet with the Minidoka County commissioners in March to ask for a similar support letter.

The letters will be submitted along with the proposed legislation to show community support, he said.

“If we don’t get it done, we won’t have an airport in the future,” Mitton said.

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