Township board approves airport pact

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 3/29/00.

In a 2-1 vote, the Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors approved a Joint Powers Airport Agreement at their Monday night meeting. The agreement commits the township to an equal partnership with the city of Paynesville in building and maintaining a new airport.

Supervisors Warren Nehring and Don Pietsch voted in favor of signing the joint powers agreement. Recently elected supervisor John Atwood voted against it.

"I think we need another highway into the community, through the air," said Nehring before making the motion.

Atwood said he supported an airport, but thought the cost to township residents was too high. Businesses in the city would benefit more from the airport than the township residents, he said.

The agreement calls for the city and the township to split the local share of the construction costs. The state provides a 70 percent matching grant, meaning the city and township will cover 30 percent. Each entity is expected to pay $200,000 in construction costs. Local maintenance costs will also be split.

Atwood said he got amounts of local government aid from the county assesor's office. He figured the township got only 35 percent of the aid that the city got, and said that should be the township's prorated share for the airport. "No more than that, period, should be paid for the airport by the township residents," he said.

"I've paid taxes for 43 years here," he added later. "I can't understand to this day why we're involved in half the costs of the airport."

Pietsch said that equal responsibility was the price for equal representation in the airport. A board will be formed with Steve Whitcomb and Dave Peschong representing the city, Pietsch and Steve Brown representing the township, and Bert Stanley as an at large member.

Pietsch added that the joint powers agreement has been in the works for more than a year. Last March, an agreement was put on hold because the township felt vulnerable to losing part of its tax base to the city. Prior to the vote on the joint powers agreement, the township passed an orderly annexation agreement with the city.

Also, he noted that the agreement uses the current assessed tax base as the starting point for figuring the city's and township's financial responsibility to the airport. So, if either entity grows faster or at the expense of the other, they will assume more of the costs for the airport.

"Many hours were spent in hammering out this agreement," said Pietsch.

Atwood protested that the agreement was being "ramrod through." If he would have known about the vote, he said, he would have circuited through the township for more opinions. "You're going to hear from the people," he predicted.

Atwood was joined by several audience members who favored a referendum on the issue.

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