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|Paynesville Press - May 15, 2002|
Township remains committed to airport agreement
How to select the decisive fifth member of the airport commission will not being decided in court...at least not yet.|
At the regular monthly meeting of the Paynesville Regional Airport Commission on Wednesday, May 8, John Atwood and Ed McIntee, the township representatives on the airport commission, indicated their intent to ask the township board to take the dispute to court and settle it once and for all.
"...we are going to ask our township board to take it to the courts," said McIntee at the commission meeting. "We don't think it can be resolved here."
Atwood and McIntee stayed at the meeting but refrained from voting, abstaining each time in protest. "Until this legal situation is settled, I don't believe we as a township can vote," said Atwood.
"I don't believe we can vote because we haven't been accepted to the commission and we haven't appointed the fifth member," added Atwood.
So Atwood and McIntee abstained from the rest of the airport commission meeting.
Then, on Monday night, at the township board meeting, two weeks after recommending that the township pull out of the airport agreement altogether, Atwood, who is a supervisor on the township board, made a motion to file suit in court to determine how and when the fifth member to the airport commission should be reappointed. His motion, though, died without a second.
While the township representatives have protested the current appointment to the airport commission (Bert Stanley), they have not taken any action to replace him, by making a motion nominating someone else, noted city councilman Dave Peschong, who serves as a city representative on the airport commission and who attended the most recent township meeting.
Atwood has an opinion from their township attorney that says the annual appointment should be made on the anniversary of the signing of the joint powers agreement, which would mean the reappointment would need to be done again now.
The city representatives on the airport commission have maintained that Stanley was reappointed as vice chair of the commission in February, which they take as an annual appointment.
City attorney and township resident Bill Spooner advised the board not to go to court without trying to reach a conclusion amongst the airport commission first. "The idea of going to court is a terrible waste of money because all that's going to be proved is you haven't done anything to change it," he said.
Peschong said he was interested in knowing who Atwood and McIntee had in mind to replace Stanley. Atwood denied having anyone in mind, and noted that their desire to replace Stanley was not personal at all, but Peschong replied that McIntee had said they had someone in mind at their first meeting on the airport commission.
"If all you want to do is be obstructionist, then you should tell the city you want to terminate (the agreement) and be done with it," Spooner told the board.
But the township pulling out of the airport project seems less likely now, with supervisor Pat Meagher, a critic of the proposed airport plan, saying on Monday night that he would abide by the township's commitment to the joint powers agreement. "I won't back out of a joint powers agreement period," he said. "I don't like it, but a deal's a deal."
With Meagher's support - despite his deep reservations on issues like the proposed location and the fairness of the current price offers for the land needed for the airport - the township board passed a number of measures on Monday to continue joint projects with the city.
First, Meagher and board chairman Don Pietsch voted to have the township contribute $2,000 toward the city's comprehensive plan and actively participate in the planning for the city's possible future growth and land use. Second, they approved a financing plan for the Koronis Civic Arena that would rely on both the city and township contributing $160,000 to retire the debt on the facility and then sharing ownership.
Atwood abstained from the vote on the comprehensive plan, though he expressed opposition to participation, and he voted against the arena financing plan, which passed 2-1.
In another twist, the township board passed two resolutions to acquire land for the new airport, despite Atwood's opposition and Meagher's inability to vote, recording a very unusual 1-0 vote.
The airport commission needs authority from the township and city to acquire land, and a change in plans forced them to ask for two new resolutions. Originally, the hangars for the new airport were to be located in the middle of the runway, at the request of MnDOT. The airport commission has always preferred to have the hangars more toward the east - closer to town - and has gotten permission to move them there.
This means the proposed airport now needs only 0.08 acres of land from Meagher, which will likely only require an easement. But the commission needs 16 more acres from landowner Dennis Rothstein.
Meagher, despite supporting the resolutions, felt he couldn't vote out of conflict of interest, since it involved land that he owned. After some discussion, the conclusion was reached that Meagher could make a motion (which technically does not imply support or opposition), and then not vote. Pietsch second the motion and voted in favor. When both Meagher and Atwood abstained, the motion for the resolutions passed 1-0.
Later in the meeting, township resident Julia Atwood protested the legality of a 1-0 vote, but the board, and a number of onlookers, noted that the vote was a majority of the board.
Meagher's support for the airport agreement at the meeting came in spite of the results of his survey, which had over 500 responses and indicated 62 percent opposed the current airport plan. He said he will use the survey results hopefully to sway the airport commission to look at alternatives to the present plan.
"The people have spoken," he said. "Whether you guys listen to them or not, that's up to you."
The township board did table another resolution, this one from the city, to amend the joint powers resolution to include a tie-breaking procedure for the fifth member to the airport commission. The tie-breaking proposal from the city was to use a combined vote of the township board and city council to determine the fifth member, a method that would benefit the greater numbers on the council, Pietsch noted. Meagher and Atwood voted to table this matter, with Pietsch voting against.
Instead, Meagher asked Atwood to make a formal motion to appoint the fifth member of the airport commission at the next commission meeting on Wednesday, June 12.
The result of that may determine what will happen next. If the two sides could reach a compromise, the issue may be settled. Or the possibility of settling the matter in court could be brought back to the township board later in June.
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