Early voting numbers up in McKinney with $200 million airport bond on the ballot
The bond would help the City of McKinney expand the airport to fly out passengers. But some residents from McKinney and nearby towns are worried about how the expansion will affect their daily lives.
A controversial bond vote that would fund the expansion of McKinney’s airport led more of the city’s voters to the polls than all of Collin County on average, election officials said.
On the McKinney ballot is Proposition A, a $200 million bond the city hopes to use to build a commercial terminal at McKinney National Airport. The bond, approved in February for a spot on the May 6 ballot, has been touted as providing additional passenger service to a fast-growing region.
Collin County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbet said he suspects that's why 12.95% of registered voters in McKinney voted early — compared to just 8% average countywide.
"Historically — and I've done this for a number of years — you're going to see those increased turnout whenever you have issues on the ballot that have supporters and opponents that are very invested, I would say," he said. "Invested and participating in an election, making sure that their voice would be heard."
Sherbet expected McKinney's turnout to increase significantly again come Election Day on Saturday.
Airport officials say the idea for airport expansion has been in the works for years after demand from airlines and locals.
Supporters say the expansion is a logical choice for an ever-growing region. Though the Dallas-Fort Worth area is already served by DFW and Love Field, they believe the growing Collin County population could support a third major airport.
“By the time you get to one of the other airports and you're parked and everything, you're already stressed out before you’re even stepping into the terminal with the drive and the parking situation,” Ken Carley, director of McKinney National Airport, said at the February city council meeting in which the ballot measure was approved.
“So, I just think for us, it’ll be hopefully a more convenient and a more pleasant travel experience, is what we're really trying to deliver.”
But despite several community events hosted to inform the public about the airport bond, some voters say they’re still worried about how expanding the airport will impact their daily lives.
One McKinney teacher is a vocal opponent.
“There are other ways that we can expand our tax revenue without doing something this destructive to the city,” said Bridgette Wallis. “Our whole tagline for the city is ‘unique by nature.’ How is that in any way associated with having a large airport?”
Wallis runs the McKinney Citizen to Citizen website, where she said she does her own research into the airport’s viability for the city. She worried the bond would raise residents’ taxes, and doubted the profitability of an expanded airport.
Wallis isn’t alone. The McKinney Citizen to Citizen Facebook group has more than 1,000 members, many of whom have raised concerns about how much taxpayers are expected to take on. They’re also worried about the impact on the environment and residents’ health.
At the heart of the issue, Wallis said, is figuring out how to keep the city thriving financially while maintaining the quality of life residents want.
“We want to keep the city green,” Wallis said. “We want to keep it open. We want to keep it what it was supposed to be and what a lot of people moved here for.”
McKinney National currently serves as a general aviation airport. The bond, along with another $100 million in federal grants and loans, would provide enough money to add four gates and fly out a projected 12 flights per day.
That’s worrying for Fairview teacher Caroline Dulemba, who said she has quality of life concerns. She teaches just a few miles south of McKinney and said she already hears flight traffic.
At a recent event, Mayor Fuller and aviation experts laid out preliminary environmental studies which show noise from airport runways, on average, won’t reach more than 65 decibels outside airport property — about the volume of normal human conversation.
But Dulemba said besides noise risks from the airport, the promise of 12 flights a day doesn’t make airport expansion worth it to her.
“It's not going to meet a lot of people's needs,” Dulemba said. “Will it meet the needs of a few select people? Possibly. But is it worth the burden to McKinney citizens, is it worth the health and environmental impact to people in multiple towns who don't get a vote? I say no.”
In an email to KERA, the Federal Aviation Administration wrote it requires the submission of noise contour maps before an airport is built, but the diagrams usually need detailed context. The spokesperson wrote there is no one-size-fits-all projection for how much noise an airport produces.
McKinney Mayor George Fuller, who has advocated for airport expansion, said he’s discouraging voters from trusting misinformation that casts doubt on the profit and safety of the airport.
Rather, he said, the bond is an investment into generating income for McKinney and providing convenient travel for the region.
“The reason for us to pursue passenger service now is multifold,” Fuller said. “Why? Because we genuinely believe it’s an incredible opportunity to take advantage of the greatest economic driver asset in the entire region. In all of Collin County.”
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