Committee may get airport back into system

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 11/12/96.

Ron Lloyd, airport engineering specialist, offered the Paynesville Airport Committee Wednesday night, Nov. 6, hope that funds could be available in July 1997 for upgrading the Paynesville Airport.Ê

The Paynesville Airport was opened in 1946 as a public airport. In 1982, the city lost its certification as a public airport due to runway restrictions placed on the airport by the state aeronautics division. The airport is currently classified as publicly owned but privately used.

Lloyd told those present Wednesday night it was foolish for them to spend money on a project until they knew what needs to be done. ãThe airport had a problem 20 years ago when I was out here and that problem still exists. The runway is only 2,300 feet long and needs to be 2,500 feet or longer,ä he said. About 10 years ago, the city brought in consultants and did a feasibility study on what it could or couldnât do at the present site.

Lloyd stressed the airport needs an approach protection zone and that is difficult with urban development. ãThere are grant-in-aid programs in place which could be a source of revenue for the city, but at present there are no funds available,ä Lloyd said. ãFunding could help with runway construction and land acquisition. Our fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. All the funds for this year are committed. Of the $8.2 million funds allocated for 1997-98, $5.5 million is already committed. We donât have enough money to meet the present demands from airports.ä

The committee asked Lloyd if the city could pursue an east-west runway instead of upgrading the present southeast to northwest runway. The existing runway would be used as a taxi strip. Lloyd said the state is inclined to help develop turf strips and since all the area airports have the southeast to northwest runways, they would work to help develop an east-west alignment.

Lloyd said if the airport developed a 3,500 foot runway, they would need an approach protection zone of 2,200 feet off the end, that is almost a mile beyond the runway. He explained there are two protection zones. In zone A, there could be no homes or power lines within 2,400 feet. Type A would allow the airport to have a longer runway, enabling larger planes to land. In zone B, the distance is less, 1,200 feet, with a shorter runway.

Lloyd informed the council that under the old system, the state participated in construction costs with the state covering two-thirds and one-third local expense. Starting next year, the state is proposing the cost sharing would possibly be split 60-40, placing a bigger burden on the municipalities. ãIf the community is sincere about improving their airport, they will come up with the larger share,ä he added.

ãI donât want to lead you down a false path. You need to know what is out there. If the city wants to pursue upgrading the airport, you need to know the runway alignment, the justification for the airport (who will use the airport) and set some long-range plans. Look at your site, fly it, check all the approach angles. How does it impact zoning? The area needs to be zoned before the city is eligible for state funds,ä Lloyd said.

Before Paynesville would be eligible for any funding, they would need to get back on the state system. Eligibility criteria states: 1) The airport must be owned by a municipality. 2) The airport must be licensed for public use. 3) The airport must be in the state airport system and this designation comes from the commissioner of transportation and approved by the governor. 4) The airport must be zoned or in the process of zoning. 5) The airport must be more than 30 minutes driving time from the nearest existing airport and must have a minimum of 10 based aircraft.

Lloyd encouraged the city to hire an engineer to do a preliminary site plan. ãYou need to go out to the site and determine if the length is there. Most cities own the land around the airport but it isnât necessary.

He added Paynesville can be placed back into the system once the site plan is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and State Office of Aeronautics. Then the engineer can develop a more detailed layout and zoning of the land can begin.

Steve Whitcomb, Paynesville Airport Committee chairman, told Lloyd he has seen people fly into the airport, walk to the Dairy Queen, walk back to their plane and leave. ãThe airport is a great economic development tool. The city has talked about other sites, but always seems to come back to the present site. Now with the motel next to the airport and fast food places to eat, we (the committee) feel we are up to the challenge of upgrading the airport,ä Whitcomb said.

Lloyd said the timing wasnât bad to build a new turf runway, but he wasnât promising to paint a rosy picture. He added there is a construction fund with $200,000 designated for turf runways. ãWe have had only one city take advantage of the fund in 20 years of its existence,ä he added.

Before leaving, Lloyd said he liked the renewed interest from Paynesville and offered hope for the community to receive funding for the project.

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