By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Although the Winsted City Council approved paving the airport runway a month ago, the project is still on shaky ground due to the need to acquire property from eight landowners.
“If any of them decide they don’t want to move forward at any point in time, that could shelf the whole project,” City Administrator Dan Tienter said at Wednesday’s work session.
Of the eight property owners, six have informally expressed a willingness to consider selling their properties. The other two the Winsted Farmers Co-op Creamery and the Otto property previously said they are not interested in selling.
At a public hearing in May, co-op president Steven Rohling said he prefers the co-op keep all of its land because it is all in use. The co-op has been at its current location since 1972.
Council Member Tom Ollig said he has spoken with the Ottos, who said they would prefer that the runway not be any closer to their property.
If the project is successful and all eight landowners agree to sell, 95 percent of the city’s land acquisition fees will be reimbursed through a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
However, if an agreement cannot be reached with all of the landowners, the city would not be reimbursed unless the council chose to acquire the land through eminent domain.
The council’s current position is that it does not wish to pursue land acquisition through eminent domain.
For the co-op creamery and the Otto property, the proposed land acquisition agreement is $92,930. This amount includes having ProSource Technologies (a consulting firm that specializes in right-of-way and site acquisition services) discuss the land acquisition process with the co-op creamery and the Otto residence. It also includes an ownership and encumbrance report on all existing and future airport parcels (as required by the FAA). The final product is an updated airport map that shows any existing encumbrances and easements on airport property.
This map is required in order to receive funding for the land acquisition process. This work would not begin until it’s determined if an agreement is possible with the co-op and the Ottos.
If no agreement can be reached, the city could still incur about half of the acquisition costs, due to the consultant work, standard fees, and the full-narrative appraisal.
Council Member Patty Fitzgerald asked why the appraisal process is so expensive, and Tienter responded that it is a lengthy document that is much more involved than other appraisals, and it is a standard federal requirement.
“It’s baked into the cake as far as federal land acquisition goes,” Tienter said.
At this time, if the council does not want to move forward with land acquisition, it still has the option to do a turf runway project.
The council directed Tienter to see if there is an informal way for the city to gauge the likelihood of all property owners agreeing to sell. Tienter also plans to research ways for the city to potentially save money on the land acquisition process.
The council plans to wait to take any action until these questions can be answered. Look for more council coverage in the Friday, July 14 edition of the Herald Journal.