Council approves airport proposal

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 6/16/98.

Steve Whitcomb, airport ad hoc committee spokesperson, presented the Paynesville City Council with an update on the airport study at their Wednesday night meeting.

ďOur meeting with MnDOT on May 20 was very successful,Ē Whitcomb told the council. ďTom Foster, SEH engineer, explained to MnDOT the benefits of having the airport layout plan and environmental worksheet as one package and they approved our request.Ē Whitcomb referred to the airport project as the beginning stages of creating another highway into the area.

Councilman Harlan Beek asked what kind of economic impact the project would have on the city.Ē

ďAt this point we canít answer that,Ē Dave Peschong, another airport committee member, said.

Council member Dennis Zimmerman said the committee can make projections and comparisons about the impact but nobody will really know the full extent of the impact until the airport is operational.

Whitcomb said the committee feels a new airport will increase tourism to the area. ďWe have letters showing that a large part of our local business community already uses the airport,Ē he added.

ďThe feasibility study addresses wind analysis, runway alignment, number of aircraft housed here and expected to be based here if and when the upgraded airport becomes a reality,Ē Whitcomb explained. ďWe (the committee) are pretty confident that if we have fuel available and a 4,000-foot runway, airplanes will come to Paynesville,Ē Whitcomb added. ďWe have 10 people committed to base their planes in Paynesville if hangar space is available. I expect we could build hangar space for 10 airplanes per year as long as the need lasts.Ē

Beek expressed his concern that if it were built, it would be a white elephant to the community. Peschong explained that MnDOT would not agree to any of the cityís plans if they felt it would be a white elephant.

Zimmerman said the committee has tried to look at the project objectively and they wouldnít want to build something that wouldnít be used. ďIt is the committeeís opinion that the airport would be used and he recommended the council approve the request for $16,300 to do the next step, which is the environmental worksheet. The airport layout plan was already approved at a previous council meeting.

In other business:

• Peter Carlson, city engineer, informed the council the 1998 street project was moving along well. All the streets are paved with the exception of Hudson Street and 95 percent of the sidewalk work is completed.

ďWhen working on Hudson Street, the workers found the pavement was only one-inch thick. Original plans called for curb and gutter only on one side, but due to the condition of the street, it was decided to add curb and gutter to both sides of the street. We feel the street will last longer than if it just had an overlay,Ē Carlson told the council.

Carlson said the contractorís goal is to have the entire project (including sodding) completed by the end of June.

• The council approved paying Officer Joe Schmitzís attorney fees at a cost of $3,507.

• The council reviewed their insurance policy with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust. There has been a change in the statutory tort liability limits. The city needed to decide whether to waive the limit or not. The statutory tort limits increased from $200,000 to $300,000 on individual claims and $600,000 to $750,000 on total amounts.

The city agreed to not waive the monetary limits which means an individual claimant would be able to recover no more than $300,000 on any claim. The total which all claimants would be able to recover for a single occurrence would be limited to $750,000.

The Westby case against the city would be under the old limits, $600,000, since the accident happened in 1997, according to Bill Spooner, city attorney.

• The council approved participation in Tri-CAPís single family home program. Tri-CAP has funds available to build approximately three homes in town. City participation would be a loan (EDAP revolving loan fund) to bring lot prices down to $7,500 allowing houses to sell for $80,000.

• The council approved purchasing new computer equipment at a cost of $37,456. Included in the equipment will be six work stations, new printer and modem.

ďThe most recent upgrade is not available to us for our present system,Ē Dennis Wilde, city administrator, said. ďThere is a question as to the compatibility of our present computers with 2000. A windows based system would easily allow us access to the Internet.Ē

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