It’s going to be faster to board airplanes at Mid-Continent Airport and easier to financially manage the closed Brooks Landfill if the Wichita City Council agrees with two staff initiatives during Tuesday’s meeting.
Council members will consider a request to spend $110,000 for a fourth security checkpoint lane at Mid-Continent, a request endorsed by the Transportation Safety Administration. And they’ll consider changing a policy that is intended to guarantee enough cash on hand for the closed landfill.
At the airport, the city will consider spending unused budgeted money from the 2011 renovation of the east data center in the existing terminal.
City Manager Robert Layton said that growing “bottleneck and screening” problems in the early morning have produced excessive wait times and forced some passengers to miss their flights. It’s an issue that must be quickly addressed, city officials said, despite the estimated three years left before a new terminal comes on line at the airport.
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“We’ve had lots of passengers and the airlines complain about it,” Layton said. “They’ve felt that people have missed flights because of the situation, so this is something that we feel needs attention.”
The number of airline seats departing Mid-Continent during the morning rush increased by 92 percent between January and March, according to Victor White, the city’s director of airports.
As a result, in March, the average and peak wait times at the checkpoint increased by 57 percent and 117 percent, respectively, compared with January. In March, Mid-Continent had screening waits exceed 30 minutes for the first time since 2007. More than half of the wait times between 5 and 6:30 a.m. daily exceeded 10 minutes, with a third of those times exceeding 20 minutes.
The proposed city work includes reconfigured glass partitions, electrical and data connection modifications and relocated surveillance cameras. Federal officials will cover the costs of equipment for the new lane and upgrades to equipment at the existing three lanes.
At the landfill, the city will lower its threshold for reserve cash in the post-closure landfill fund to 85 percent of the annual financial assurance requirement, currently estimated at $23,150,179, to perform site maintenance, environmental monitoring and potential pollution remediation through 2031.
Layton said the change is necessitated by decreasing investment returns on the fund money, which was allocated by past councils and staff in anticipation of the landfill’s post-closure costs.
Investment earnings on the landfill fund’s cash balance of $21,072,392 are “less than 1 percent” annually in the current economic environment, Layton said.
“Investment returns won’t keep this fund at 90 percent of requirements,” Layton said.
But without the foresight of past councils, the city manager said, the post-closure fund would have been funded by more city debt to meet state and federal regulations.