Appraisals arrive for proposed airport

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 4/18/01.

The first round of appraisals for the proposed airport are in and slightly higher than budgeted.

A new airstrip - which is planned for a spot slightly to the west of the current airport - would require the Paynesville Regional Airport Commission to purchase a minimum of 210 acres of land. The budgeted cost for this land was $950 per acre, totalling $199,500 for all the land.

The first appraisals estimated all 210 acres to be worth $227,000, or $1,081 per acre.

"Some of it came in exactly (as estimated)," said city council and airport commission member Dave Peschong of the appraisals. "Some of it came in higher because of recent purchases."

The next step for the airport would be for the commission to give the go ahead to start negotiations with landowners. The city's engineering firm, SEH, which has been working on the airport project, will be handling the negotiations.

The go-ahead for the negotiations could come this afternoon, when the airport commission resumes its regular monthly meeting. "We've been studying up to now," said Steve Whitcomb, commission chairman. "This motion pretty much starts construction."

The procedure for land acquisition is for Dave Olson of SEH to meet with the landowners, explain the appraisal, and offer to purchase the land for that price. If the landowner disagrees with that price, he or she can demand a second appraisal, to be done at the commission's expense.

The landowner can choose this appraiser, but the appraiser must be on a list approved by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which will be covering 60 percent of the costs for a new airport.

Should the landowner and commission not reach agreement after this second appraised value, condemnation procedures would be needed for the commission to acquire the land. For this, a court would set a price.

Using this procedure would cost money in legal fees, council member Harlan Beek noted at the city council meeting on Wednesday, April 11. Beek wondered how strong the joint powers agreement between the city and township is. Under the agreement, the city and township are to split the local costs, but Beek noted that the township has committed to spending only $200,000.

Beek also wanted to bond for the city's share of the airport cost, but the council opted to use money for the project from its undesignated reserves, which currently has a balance of nearly $950,000. Using this money saves interest expense, Peschong said.

(Linda Stelling contributed to this report.)

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