Airport joint powers agreement is discussed

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 3/31/99.

Paynesville's forefathers were looking to the future when they designed and built the present airport in 1946.

Today, the city of Paynesville is exploring their options about the airport and its future.

A task force was formed in May of 1996 to explore the city's options. Serving on the task force were pilots, representatives of the Economic Development Authority of Paynesville, the city of Paynesville, and Paynesville Township.

Currently, Paynesville Township and the city of Paynesville are working on a joint powers agreement for the proposed airport.

The city council approved a joint powers agreement at their March 9 meeting. The agreement was tabled by the township at their March 22 meeting.

"I feel there will be an agreement, but the township and city need to sit down and talk about some issues first," Johnnie Olson, township supervisor, said. "I'm still in favor of an agreement and hope things will move forward as soon as we get growth issues cleared up."

The city and township recently received maps from the St. Cloud Area Joint Planning Project which projects city growth boundaries and where they might be 20 years from now.

The map shows projections of the city limits extending to the lake and east to Highway 55.

Upon seeing the growth boundaries for the city, red flags went up for the township supervisors. The township officials are concerned about losing major tax base revenue if the city annexes land up to the lake.

"I can't imagine Paynesville not having an airport," Warren Nehring, township supervisor, said. "But, I have a lot of reservations. I want the township to be progressive and not regressive in what they do."

"The township board felt more discussion needs to take place before signing a joint powers agreement," Nehring added. A meeting is being planned by the two bodies to discuss the approximate growth boundaries drawn by the St. Cloud Area Joint Planning Project.

When approved, a joint powers board would be established and would manage and oversee the construction and operation of a new airport in Paynesville Township. The airport plans call for it to be built to the west of Alco Discount Store and the Country Inn Motel.

One question the task force looked at concerned the need for an airport. Steve Whitcomb, airport ad hoc committee chairman, said they received letters from businesses in neighboring communities urging Paynesville to upgrade the airport.

Andy Winstrom, Omaha, Neb., told the Press in 1996 that Paynesville is a great location for an airport. The airport is near the golf course, eating establishments, and two lakes.

In 1996, Phil Bailey, a local pilot, said the airport is used more than area residents think. "The airport is just another good highway into Paynesville. I flew into Paynesville when I bought our home here," Bailey said.

Airport history
The city of Paynesville looked at making improvements to the current airport in 1981. A study was completed and presented to the council in January 1982. The study said while some problems are associated with the site, it appeared they could be overcome.

According to an airport commission member in 1982, one reason the plan was never utilized was because the city wasn't able to purchase the necessary land from neighboring landowners.

Two other airport sites, one north of Paynesville and the other near Roscoe, have been explored since 1982. Studies done for those sites indicated they were not economically feasible.

In June of 1982, the present airport was removed from the state public airport system because it did not meet state licensing standards for a public use airport. The Paynesville airport has a short runway (2,300 feet) and hazardous landing pattern (Highway 23 on the east end and trees on the west end). The state minimum for a public airport requires 2,500 feet for a runway.

With preliminary runway planning taking place, the Paynesville airport was reinstated to the state airport system in September 1997.

With that reinstatement, Paynesville is now considered a "planning airport" and that all money spent is eligible for 60-40 funding reimbursement from the state. Sixty percent is being covered by the state and 40 percent by local funds. Thus far, the local funds have been shared equally by the city and township.

Airport proposal
If and when a new airport is completed, the state will cover up to 60 percent of the airports operating expenses not to exceed $3,500 per year.

The new airport plan calls for a 3,700 foot turf runway with an ultimate goal of a 4,000-foot bituminous paved runway. The size of the runway would accom-modate airplanes weighing 12,500 pounds or less. To handle larger planes, a 4,000-foot paved runway would be needed.

The proposed runway plans include a lighted runway, a tee-hangar with space for 10 airplanes, and a free standing arrival and departure building.

As of June 1998, the airport ad hoc committee had 10 people committed to basing their airplanes in Paynesville if hangar space was available.

The city/township would need to zone the area around the airport to protect the air space. A clear zone would be needed at both ends. No large buildings or objects are allowed in the clear zone to obstruct airplanes from landing or taking off from the strip.

As of March 22, 1999, the layout plan, feasibility study, and environmental assessment worksheet have been completed.

The feasibility study addressed wind analysis, runway alignment, number of aircraft housed here and expected to be based here if and when the upgraded airport becomes a reality.

In May of 1998, traffic counts were done at the airport. Those monitoring the airport also visited with people who regularly use the airport and compiled letters from area residents, businesses and pilots who feel the upgraded airport will benefit Paynesville.

At a November meeting of the township board and city council, Whitcomb recommended a new airport be built, according to plans submitted by Short Elliot Hendricks engineering firm.

The cost of the airport is estimated at $1,081,000.

The prices are based on the assumption the airport would be built by the end of 2000.

If the airport is built, no existing buildings would need to be removed. However, 223 acres would need to be purchased for the runway and for easements on either side of the runway. The ad hoc committee was told much of the land around the landing strip could still be farmed.

At meetings held concerning the airport, Whitcomb stressed he sees the project as a Paynesville Area Airport, not a city or township project because of the long-range benefits to the whole area.

Return to Archives