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Paynesville Press - August 14, 2002

Township agrees to terminate airport pact

By Michael Jacobson

With little discussion, the Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors voted to terminate their Joint Powers Agreement for the Paynesville Regional Airport Commission with the city of Paynesville in a unanimous vote on Monday night.

"Well, they don't give us much choice," said township supervisor John Atwood before making the motion to terminate the airport agreement. Supervisor Pat Meagher seconded the motion and it passed unanimously, the first time in years that a township vote on the airport passed without dissent.

Last week, the Paynesville City Council had voted to terminate the agreement, citing noncooperation of the township, either in 365 days as required by the agreement or immediately if the township board would agree to do so.

For terminating the agreement immediately, the city agreed to allow the township to keep $194,000, the unspent portion of its airport commitment. The township had capped its contribution for the new airport at $200,000, but only $6,000 had actually been billed so far. The city agreed to let the township keep that money.

In exchange, though, the city will no longer pay $7,000 per year for debt retirement for the Koronis Civic Arena, the indoor ice facility owned by the township. Before the city council decided to scrap the township as a partner in the airport project, the city and the township were close to an agreement on a joint plan to retire the debt at the Koronis Civic Arena.

The city will no longer contribute to that, though it will still pay $5,000 per year towards the operation of the arena.

The city council held a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 5, and approved ending the joint powers agreement for the airport. The township board held an emergency meeting the same night, at which board chairman passed along the information about the city's intended actions to the township board and told them to prepare to make a decision this week (Monday, Aug. 12) at their regular monthly meeting.

Pietsch recommended terminating the agreement immediately, saying that to stay and fight the airport project for another year jeopardized the township's continued relations with the city.

The township board approved terminating the agreement after consulting with their attorney, who did suggest that they include an addendum about the termination to the agreement.

The township board took action on two other topics on Monday anticipating continued cooperation with the city, in at least some areas. The township board approved four appointees to a joint city-township pool committee: Urban Fuchs, Greg Hansen, Lonnie Lien, and Brad Skoglund.

And the township agreed to pay $5,000, to be matched by the North Fork of the Crow River Watershed District for stormwater improvements along Lake Avenue in the city of Paynesville. The improvements actually take place within the city limits, but most of the water runs off from areas in the townships.

Severing the airport agreement frees the city from township interference on its plans to build a new 3,300-feet, paved runway on a site west of town, actually just west of the current airport. Condemnation proceedings against five landowners, in order to acquire title or rights to the nearly 200 acres needed for the new airport are scheduled for a first hearing on Thursday, Aug. 29, in Stearns County District Court.

The township board on Monday also voted to use the $194,000 now leftover from its airport commitment to pay off a loan, at 6.5 percent interest, for the ice arena. Pietsch told the board that to pay off that loan (on Tuesday, Aug. 13) would cost $248,053.17, of which the township would use the airport funds and cash in a couple CDs, at a nominal penalty due to the low interest rates.

Additionally, the township owes around $80,000 on a low interest loan (4.9 percent) for the ice arena. This loan, with monthly payments of $4,200, will be paid off in early 2004. For now, the township will keep this loan and make montly payments.

The only controversy at the township meeting about the termination of the airport agreement came at the end of the meeting, just before adjournment.

Township resident Brad Johnson expressed concern that the township board reneged on a commitment made by the township, saying: "I guess I was raised that you should always honor that commitment, and I don't think the township has done that. I'm concerned about what that means for the future."

Meagher responded that the city, not the township, was initiating the termination of the joint powers agreement for the airport.

Township resident Ron Frauenshuh then questioned the integrity of the board for breaking the spirit of the township's commitment on the airport. "There's reasonable doubt for the city if they can rely on your word," he told the board.

Atwood then raised the school's concerns over the airport zoning and restated his support for an airport location near Roscoe before Pietsch adjourned the meeting.

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