By Linda Scherer
The newly appointed Winsted Airport Commission would really like to see a paved runway.
Nonetheless, it decided at Tuesday’s meeting that time constraints and lack of dollars made it too difficult to consider moving ahead on even Phase I of the project in 2008.
In attendance to discuss how to use airport funds for this year were the Winsted Airport commissioners, Bolton & Menk engineers, and some members of the city council.
Each year, the airport receives a $150,000 entitlement from the FAA, but can only bank it for four years. If it is not used after four years, the Winsted Airport will lose it.
The current federally funded banked balance of $600,000 is the total entitlement funds available to the Winsted Airport.
Whatever project amount the airport decides on, the FAA funds 95 percent of the project while the city is responsible for the other 5 percent.
Under consideration was a turf runway rehabilitation project which could prepare the existing turf runway to be paved, in Phase I of a two-phase project. It would have used up the entire $600,000 and still left Phase II (paving the runway) with an undetermined future date.
This same project was in the works for last year, but had not been successful. All of the bids came in over what the previous city engineer, Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH), had estimated.
Bolton & Menk, current city engineers, told the airport board that it would be unlikely the same thing would happen this year if the project was implemented, because there are many contractors looking for jobs right now and the Highway 7 project would bring new sources of materials that will keep prices down.
As the airport commissioners were informed of additional details of the rehabilitation project like the grass strip needing to be watered by the city after the project is complete, and the $32,000 required from the city would have to be added to the 2009 tax levy the commissioners began to have doubts about doing the project.
City council members Bonnie Quast and Dave Mochinski were present and were concerned about the additional dollars that would be needed from the city taxpayers.
In addition, Clerk/Treasurer Deb Boelter reported the 2006 audit states that the airport fund has a deficit of $24,049. The 2007 audit has not been completed at this time.
City Administrator Brent Mareck told the commissioners that it would be helpful for the city council to have a 2008 airport plan prepared in advance to be studied by the council for its next meeting Tuesday, Feb. 19.
The reason the council needed to make a decision soon was because the federal programming package is due Thursday, Feb. 28, which did not give the engineers much time to prepare.
Because of the early deadline, the commissioners commented on not having sufficient time to make its decision.
“We have covered a lot of things here. When was the last time we talked about this? It’s like getting educated again,” Airport Commissiner Dave Millerbernd said.
Airport Commissioner Kevin Kubasch was concerned about making a decision on a major project with such a tight time frame, as well.
Kubasch said waiting for another year would give the airport extra time to work out questions about easements and zoning issues that were discussed earlier in the meeting.
Mochinski asked the commissioners if it would be feasible to wait until the airport was out of debt and on better financial ground before starting another major project. He suggested that the airport loan out the $150,000 entitlement to another airport and get it back down-the-road when it is out of debt and has a chance to make better plans.
Ron Roetzel, senior associate at Bolton & Menk, said although it might be possible to loan out Winsted’s entitlement, his advice would be to have Winsted Airport use the $150,000 for its own airport and not loan it out to another.
Airport specialist Marcus Watson of Bolton & Menk suggested using the $150,000 for smaller items that the airport needs, like a lighted windsock at an estimated cost of $15,000, and a large airport beacon at $50,000.
To have another year, Roetzel told the commissioners, would give Bolton & Menk a chance to look at other, additional airport funding for the Winsted Airport, which usually takes four to five years to receive.
The next step
The airport commission unanimously agreed to use the $150,000 entitlement fund per a proposal plan put together by Bolton & Menk. The plan would put together a cost estimate of items the airport needs and a plan of action for the Winsted Airport to get its runway paved.
With the FAA paying 95 percent, it will mean the city will need to come up with the 5 percent match, or $7,500.
Mareck told the commissioners the $7,500 would be easier for the city council to approve than the $32,000 needed for the $600,000 turf rehabilitation project.
The proposal will be presented to the Winsted City Council Tuesday, Feb. 19.