By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN With federal funds influencing the future of Winsted’s airport runway, council members talked about possible next steps at Tuesday’s work session.
“I’d be personally in favor of just taking baby steps as small as we can take,” Council Member Max Fasching said. “A half step is good.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been encouraging the city to pave the runway, but council members haven’t decided if that’s the best option.
According to the airport capital improvement plan, the paving project is estimated at about $6.8 million. Of that, the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost, and the state would pay 5 percent. The remaining 5 percent would be the responsibility of the city.
“Just because we’re going to get $6.5 million technically free doesn’t mean we should spend $650,000,” Council Member Tom Ollig said.
City Administrator Clay Wilfahrt said some of the cost could be assessed to hangar owners, and some would have to come from other city funds.
Wilfahrt said the hangar owners’ opinions are “kind of mixed. Some really want it; some don’t want it.”
Currently, the number of hangar owners is in the low 30s.
“It’s a lot of money for 30 hangar owners,” Fasching said, adding that he also understands that the airport is part of the community.
If the city were to pursue paving the runway, the project would not be complete for another three years, according to Ron Roetzel, aviation group manager with engineering firm Bolton & Menk. In the meantime, the city could choose to do a temporary rehab of the existing turf to get by.
“The turf has been there to its useful life, and the drainage on that is very poor,” Roetzel said.
Mayor Steve Stotko said he’s not sure if it makes sense to rehab the turf, if it’s just going to be paved a few years later.
Although the FAA has indicated it would help pay for temporary turf rehabilitation, it is not interested in funding a more permanent turf rehab, according to Roetzel.
Before the runway could be paved, additional land would need to be acquired. The current runway is 3,200 feet, while a paved runway would be 3,900 feet.
Ollig commented that, financially, the airport is currently “break even at best.”
“I don’t see that getting better by paving the runway,” he said. “Granted, we’d probably get more hangar owners and planes, but I don’t know.”
Later this fall or next spring, a new severe weather siren will be installed on the corner of McLeod County Road 1 and 230th Street in Winsted.
The council approved the purchase Tuesday evening, at a total cost of $19,213 from Federal Siren. Contributors include CenterPoint Energy ($2,500), Pioneer Hi-Bred International ($2,500), the Winstock committee ($5,000), and Centra Sota ($1,500). The remaining portion will be paid by the city.
“The nearest siren right now is at the fire department, and that siren doesn’t have enough reach for the campgrounds at Winstock,” Wilfahrt said.
Council Member Tom Ollig added that the siren will not only benefit Winstock participants, but also the industrial park and nearby residents.
Originally, the city had considered placing the siren on property currently owned by K-Way Express, but decided on the new location because no easement would be required, and there is already a lift station with electricity access.
Under the federal government’s new guidelines, 87 properties in Winsted are considered within a floodplain. To challenge this determination, the council approved beginning a citywide re-study through Bolton & Menk. The total study is expected to cost about $7,500.
The first step will be to review the hydraulic modeling that was used, to determine its accuracy.
If, after starting the process, Bolton & Menk realizes that the determinations made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are accurate, the engineers will stop the process and the city will not be charged the full cost.
In September, City Engineer Jake Saulsbury said he thinks Winsted has a reasonable chance of getting properties excluded from the floodplain area.
“I’ve received probably four or five comments from people who were happy we’re doing this,” Wilfahrt said.
A full story about the floodplain zones was printed on page 1A of the Sept. 22 Herald Journal.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• pulled from the agenda the fire station roof replacement that was proposed. “We’re going to do some more investigation and research,” Wilfahrt said.
• authorized Girl Scout Troop 34045 to hold a “One Block Walk Against Bullying” at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27 along the promenade and First Street South.
• granted a hayride permit to Winsted Holding Activities That Unite People (WHAT UP) for 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18. An equipment lease that allows WHAT UP to use a tractor and trailer for the hayride was also approved.
• approved a quote for $3,800 from Craig Brose Stump Chipping for tree stump removal in Winsted city parks.
• appointed Dennis Skorczewski as a part-time snowplow operator at $14 per hour.
• scheduled a truth-in-taxation public hearing for Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. in the city hall council chambers.
• sccepted a donation of $500 from the Winsted Little League Baseball Association to be dedicated to improvements at Southview Park.
• authorized a salary step increase for utility billing and payroll clerk Amanda Zeidler, effective Sept. 9.
• authorized a salary step increase for police officer James Lammers, effective Oct. 15.
• heard that 44 applications were received for the open police officer position. The deadline was Oct. 6.