Paynesville city and township looking at joint powers for airport

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 11/17/98.

The Paynesville City Council and Paynesville Township met Tuesday night, Nov. 10, with the intent of discussing a joint powers agreement between the two entitites.

The joint powers board would manage and oversee the construction and operation of a new airport in Paynesville Township. The airport would be located behind Alco and the Country Inn on the western edge of Paynesville.

Lyle Hanks, an ambassador with the Minnesota League of Municipalities, served as moderator at the meeting.

Steve Whitcomb, airport ad hoc committee chairman, outlined what had taken place since the committeeís formation two years ago.

Whitcomb explained that at one time the airport was publicly licensed but is presently operating under a private license held by the city.

ďOne of the reasons the status was lowered was because Paynesville only has a 2,300-foot runway. State minimum requires 2,500 feet,Ē Whitcomb explained. ďTo extend the runway at the airportís present location is impossible,Ē he added. On the southeast end of the runway is Highway 23 and to the north is the Cemetery Road, trees and the river.

ďIt was the task for the committee to study the question, ďdoes the area need an airport?Ē Whitcomb said. ďWe received letters from businesses in neighboring communities around Paynesville urging us to upgrade the airport.Ē

Whitcomb stressed Paynesvilleís airport is in a unique location as it is close to town and the motel. The area lakes and golf course are also a big draw in addition to the nearby Dairy Queen, restaurants, and convenience stores. An airport would help support local businesses in the area.

Whitcomb said the ad hoc committee recommends a new airport be built according to plans submitted by SEH.

Also present at the meeting was Tom Foster, SEH aeronautical division engineer from St. Paul. He presented the preliminary layout of the proposed airport to those present at the meeting.

The new airport turf runway would be 150 feet wide and 3,700 feet long. ďThis size of runway would accommodate airplanes weighing 12,500 pounds or less. To handle larger planes, a 4,000-foot paved runway would be needed, Foster explained.

The city would need to zone the area to protect the air space around the airport. A clear zone would be needed at both ends. No large buildings or objects should be in the clearzone to obstruct airplanes from landing or taking off from the stripe, Foster explained.

ďThe runway would be lighted, have a tee-hangar with space for 10 airplanes, and a free standing arrival and departure building (3,000 square feet in size),Ē he added.

Foster told those present that the state of Minnesota treats aviation facilities similar to other transportation structures. ďThey would consider the Paynesville airport a new facility. The state would pay the first $200,000 expense and 60 percent of the development costs after that,Ē Foster said.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $1,257,300. Of that total, the city and township would split $401,350 and the stateís share would be $855,950. ďThese prices are based on the assumption that the airport is built by the end of 2000,Ē Foster added.

Projections of operational costs for an airport ran anywhere from $18,000 to $20,000 per year. The state will reimburse up to $3,500 of this amount annually. ďThe city could generate enough revenue from a fuel station and hangar rent at the airport to cover the operational cost,Ē Foster said.

Foster explained that no existing buildings would need to be displaced to make room for the airport. However, the joint powers board would need to purchase about 210 acres for the runway and 28 acres for easements on either side of the runway. ďThe easements could still be farmed,Ē he added.

Hanks said he comes from a city where a joint powers agreement was a good situation. Hanks is the former mayor of St. Louis Park. Hanks recommended a five or seven- member joint powers board be formed, consisting of city and township officials and one other person.

Councilman Dennis Zimmerman said the biggest benefit of the airport is the availability of having it nearby.

Joe Voss said there has been tremendous cooperation between the township and city up to this point. Both have shared the cost of the studies equally.

Whitcomb stressed that he sees this project as a Paynesville Area Airport, not a city or township project because of its long-range benefits to the whole area.

Township Supervisor Warren Nehring said he doesnít see this as a power struggle because both groups will be contributing 50-50 toward the expenses. Representatives on the Joint Powers Board would be reporting back to their respective entities.

Johnnie Olson, township chairman, feels the airport is a good project, but there are a few items that need to be ironed out.

Zimmerman said the sooner the new airport can become a reality, the sooner the project can get in line for state funding.

On Nov. 10, prior to the meeting, Whitcomb received the go ahead from the state to do the environmental assessment worksheet. The city and township had approved the worksheet at earlier meetings and were awaiting the go ahead from the state level.

ďThe timing for a new airport is good because of low interest rates and the stateís cost share in the project,Ē Zimmerman added.

People serving on the airport ad hoc committee have been Dennis Wilde, Dennis Zimmerman, Dave Peschong, Phil Bailey, Lew Storkamp, Don Pietsch and Steve Whitcomb.

Hanks suggested the two entities have their lawyers draw up an agreement. Bill Spooner is the attorney for both parties. Hanks said he would forward to the city a blueprint for a joint powers agreement. He also suggested they talk with other communities who have drawn up joint powers agreements.

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