homepage logo


Council OKs Airport Project

By Staff | Jun 26, 2010

Les Wiborg

After months of controversy, the Blue Earth City Council voted to proceed with the first phase of a two-year, $7 million airport reconstruction project.

After a lengthy discussion at last Monday’s regular council meeting, the vote was 4-2 to accept a bid for the construction of the first phase.

Council-man Les Wiborg and newly-appointed councilwoman Paula Kelly cast the two dissenting votes. Mayor Rob Hammond and councilmen John Huisman, Dan Brod and Glenn Gaylord all voted to proceed.

Ron Roetzel of Bolton and Menk reported to the council that just two bids had been received for this first phase of the project. He added, however, that both bids were lower than expected.

The first phase of the project includes building a parallel taxiway to the existing runway, as well as new apron areas for planes around the airport buildings.

Paula Kelly

The low bid for this work was from Southern Minnesota Construction. Their base bid was for $2,041,209.

Both bidders submitted two options, one for paving the taxiway with bituminous, and one for a concrete surface.

Roetzel presented a summary of the cost differences in the two materials, based on the life expectancy of the two.

Bituminous (blacktop) is less expensive to begin with, however, concrete becomes the cheaper way to go over the life of the taxiway.

Roetzel told the council, however, that the difference is actually not very large in the two materials.

“I’m nervous about the concrete, to tell the truth,” Roetzel answered when the council asked for his opinion. He explained that the clay nature of the ground around Blue Earth could cause the surface to heave.

“Bituminous will remain more flexible, while concrete is rigid and can crack,” he says. “Most airports the size of Blue Earth (General Aviation Airports) have gone with bituminous.”

The council debated both options, with Councilman Gaylord saying he preferred the concrete option.

A first motion, however, listed bituminous as the choice. It was later amended, and the council approved moving forward with the concrete option, on the 4-2 vote.

That will add $644,531 to the base bid, as opposed to the bituminous option amount of $591,926.

Councilman Wiborg questioned if the vote meant a commitment to the full airport plan, and was told it only committed the city to the first year, phase one portion of the overall project.

Phase one is scheduled to begin yet this summer. Phase two, which includes reconstruction – but not expansion – of the current runway, is set for 2011 and will require another vote at that time.

The total of the two year project, which also includes land acquisition, has been estimated to be just over $7 million if concrete is used, or just under if it is a bituminous surface.

The estimates for the project show phase one’s costs to run around $3 million in 2010, and phase two in 2011 to cost $4 million.

Of this, the city of Blue Earth’s share is estimated to run $170,000 in 2010, and $200,000 in 2011. The rest is funded mainly through the Federal Aviation Authority.

A document at the meeting shows an estimate of local impact of this phase one work to be $6.65 per year for each residence and business in the city, if the project is paid through local taxes.