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Decision could be made

By Staff | Oct 26, 2009

The proposed runway extension

The Blue Earth City Council is getting serious about making a final decision whether to proceed with a proposed multi-million dollar runway expansion project at the city’s airport.

“We have been dancing around this (decision) too long,” Mayor Rob Hammond told the council Monday night at their regular meeting.

Hammond proposed holding a special meeting on Monday night, Oct. 26, specifically to decide whether to proceed with the full project, or possibly cut it back.

“We would open it to the public to get their comments before voting,” Hammond added.

The council agreed a decision needs to be made.

At issue is a proposed $6 million in improvements to the airport.

Of that total, $313,925 would be local funding, while the rest, $5.7 million, would be federal and state funds.

The two major portions of the project would be to re-pave the runway and extend it from 3,400 feet long to 4,600 feet.

Secondly, a parallel taxiway would be built, as well as an apron area extension and reconstruction.

The project would be done in two phases in 2010 and 2011, Ron Roetzel of Bolton and Menk Engineers told the council on Monday.

The parallel taxiway would be built first, in 2010. It would then be used as a substitute runway while the main runway itself was extended 1,200 feet and resurfaced in 2011.

Roetzel was again asked by the council what would happen if the project was cut back from extending the runway by 1,200 feet.

He said if the project was not done, Blue Earth would go to the bottom of the list as far as Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) funding was concerned.He said the FAA would still fund 95 percent of a project that would be cut back in scope.

If the current 3,400 foot runway was just resurfaced, and a taxiway built along side it, the cost would be $3.7 million, of which $800,000 would be for the taxiway.

Local residents have not only questioned the cost of the runway extension, but also the fact that it will be necessary to close 80th Street on the north side of the airport, to make room for the longer runway.

Roetzel told the council the cost of the project includes land acquisition for lengthening the runway, but it is not a significant amount of land. Most of the land will still be able to be rented out to be farmed, he added.

There is $500,000 included in the project for land purchases in 2010 and 2011. Of that amount, the city’s share would be $10,000 in 2010, and $15,000 in 2011.

The City of Blue Earth gets a $150,000 payment from the FAA each year, for runway costs, Roetzel says. As does every airport in the state.

Some of this federal entitlement money is also scheduled to be used for the project.

Roetzel told the council that a timetable for the project calls for bids to be accepted in January for the 2010 portion of the work.

“Contractors are hungry right now and we expect bids to come in low,” he says.

The council would have another opportunity to decide whether to go with the expanded runway after the bids come in, he said.

Roetzel added that the bids could have a statement that the city reserves the right to scale back the project, after the bids are received.

The council had previously authorized Bolton and Menk to prepare engineering specs for expanding the runway to 4,600 feet, which Roetzel says has been done.