Paxton airport's sale hung up over closed landfill's sale

PAXTON — It has been more than a year since the Paxton City Council agreed in principle to sell the city-owned airport to a private party.

Yet, despite months of discussions behind closed doors, the city and the prospective buyer, Atlantic Ag Aviation Inc. — a firm owned by David Hrupsa of Roper, N.C. — are no closer to finalizing a deal.

“It just takes time,” Mayor Bill Ingold said Tuesday.

The latest hangup in selling the airport located on Illinois 9’s north side actually has nothing to do with the airport itself, though. According to the mayor, the delay in selling the airport results from a delay in being able to also sell the city’s long-closed landfill, located near the southwest corner of the Paxton Municipal Airport.

“One party wants to buy the landfill; one party wants to buy the airport,” Ingold told aldermen during the city council’s February meeting. “We want to make sure that the people buying the landfill are going to be able to access the airport ... and we want to make sure that nobody will be left in the lurch if the guy (buying) the landfill does something to disrupt the (ground) cover and, ya know, dig something in it that hasn’t been done.

“We want to have all of our bases covered before we get that far.”

Since December, the city has been awaiting word from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) on whether it will certify the landfill as having completed its post-closure care period. The landfill has been closed since 1991, yet the IEPA has repeatedly denied the city’s application for the site to be certified for completion of post-closure care, said city engineer Mike Streff. Instead, the IEPA has been asking the city to do more monitoring of the site, Streff said.

Streff said that as of last month, he had received no response yet from the IEPA regarding the city’s request to be released from its liability. The IEPA has 90 days from early December to respond, he said.

“They’re so backlogged right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they asked for an extension to review what we’ve submitted,” Streff said.

If the IEPA ends up issuing the certification, the city will no longer be required to monitor the landfill’s groundwater, Streff said.

The landfill — and airport — could finally be sold, too.

Ingold said he has remained in regular contact with Hrupsa and the landfill’s prospective buyer. Ingold said Hrupsa would “like to get going sooner than later” on buying the airport, but “he’s OK” with the city doing what it needs to do first.

“We’re all anxious to get it done,” Ingold said.

Given the past year of delays, Alderman Mike Wilson asked City Attorney Marc Miller during last month’s council meeting whether the city could sell the airport immediately — before the landfill situation is sorted out.

“It seems like this has been going on an awful long time,” Wilson said.

“I’m not directly involved with those negotiations,” Miller responded, “so I couldn’t give you an answer. But we can get you an answer.”

The council later met in closed session that same night to discuss the proposed land sales.

“I think further discussion on this needs to be held in executive session,” Alderman Rob Steiger said before the discussion concluded in open session.

In February 2017, the council approved a letter of intent to sell the airport to Atlantic Ag Aviation Inc. for $100,000 in cash and a note for $50,000. Under the terms of the letter of intent, Hrupsa would be required to operate the property as a public airport according to applicable Federal Aviation Administration regulations for the next 30 years. Also, Hrupsa would continue to honor leases held by pilots using the airport’s hangars.

The closing of the sale was initially expected to occur no later than May 31, 2017, following the expiration of an inspection period.

At the time, Paxton’s tax-increment financing attorney, Dan Schuering, said the letter of intent was just “an agreement to agree” — but does not require the city or Hrupsa to follow through with the transaction.

Over the years, there were various aldermen on the council who wanted to see the airport closed because they felt it was a drain on city resources. Also, finding a fixed-base operator (FBO) was often a problem, and city employees needed to mow the grounds and pump fuel there.

Finding non-city funds to resurface the runway has been impossible, as well.

Ingold said that by privatizing the airport’s operation, it would alleviate the burden on the city.

“Quite frankly, we’ve spent a lot of money out there and not gotten a lot of money back (as a result),” Ingold said last year.


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