Airport should it be improved or closed?

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 7/9/96.

Paynesville's forefathers were looking to the future when they designed and built the existing airport in 1946. Today, the Paynesville City Council is trying to decide whether to close the airport and develop the property or upgrade the present airport.

A task force was formed in May consisting of pilots, representatives of Paynesville Township, city of Paynesville, EDAP, and the planning commission.

In looking through the old issues of the Paynesville Press, I found the article describing the plans for the existing airport. It read:

With a look to the future, the Paynesville Village Council completed the purchase of 91 acres in June 1946 from William Diekman to open an airport.

The original airport had three runways: north and south, east and west, and northwest to southeast. The north-south runway was designed to be a half- mile long; the east-west runway, 2,200 feet long, and the third, 2,500 feet long.

Once the airport was completed, it was dedicated as a memorial to World War II veterans of Paynesville.

Phil Young, 80, Paynesville, recalls taking flying lessons on a field by what today is known as the Art Voss farm. "We had to fly 10 to 12 hours dual hours with the teacher from Willmar, then solo 30 to 40 hours," he added.

Young said when the airport was opened there were about a half dozen pilots in the Paynesville area.

Andy Winstrom, Omaha, Neb., doesn't see why the city of Paynesville can't upgrade the present airport. His family has several cabins on Lake Koronis and fly up here every weekend. He also flies in business associates who have meetings in the area.

"Look around you, Paynesville is a great location for an airport...the airport is near the golf course, eating establishments and two lakes," Winstrom said.

Local pilot, Phil Bailey, thinks Paynesville lost its certification as a public airport about 10 years ago due to restrictions placed on the airport by the state aeronautics division. The airport is currently classified as publicly owned but privately used.

Bailey said the east-west runway was closed about 12 years ago after the liquor store was built along Highway 23.

"I think part of the problem in Paynesville is lack of communication. There seems to be a lot of talk about what can be done to improve the airport, but the different groups never get together and present something to the city or township," Bailey said.

"I think there is the perception that only a couple of pilots use the airport. The airport is used more than people think. I use it at least three times a week, Andy uses it weekly and sometimes more, as do other pilots," Bailey said. The minimum requirements for a public airport designation states at least one runway needs a usable length of 2,500 by 75 feet. The present airport is 2,350 by 145 feet.

Dave Hybakken, an airport development engineer with the Department of Transportation Division of Aeronautics, said there are public funds available to help maintain a certified public airport. The ratio is two-thirds state and one-third local funding for upgrades and the state also helps cover ongoing maintenance costs.

The city of Paynesville looked at making improvements to the 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 appears they could be overcome.

Mayor Norb Torborg received a letter from Richard Keinz, assistant commissioner of the MnDOT Aeronautics Division, commending the city for its efforts to provide good aviation facilities for its citizens and stand ready to assist those efforts.

Joe Kremer, airport commission member in 1982, said one of the reasons the plan was never utilized was because the city wasn't able to purchase the necessary land from neighboring landowners.

Cecil Louis, council member at the time, added the council had other projects under way and the airport had to take a back se
at to them.
The task force will be meeting later this month, then bring their recommendations to the city council.

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