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Wells airport needs lights

By Staff | Oct 1, 2017

It is difficult to land a plane. It is even more difficult to land a plane in the dark.

Mark Schmitz of the Wells Airport Board made a brief presentation to the council before they began their preliminary budget workshop.

“I would request that you include in your budget a significant capital improvement,” said Schmitz. “Our temporary lighting system at the Wells Airport has been a low-intensity lighting system for over 40 years. I believe it’s time to address the lighting now.”

Schmitz stated there was airport grant funding available from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to assist with airport projects.

“The airport grant funding was an offer of a 90/10 or even a 92/8 share of the costs between the city and MnDOT. I spoke with Travis Winter, (city engineer) and he said the entire project would cost about $240,000-$260,000,” said Schmitz. “I would request you make this a line item in your capital improvement budget otherwise our airport could be dark.”

The aviator explained that a “dark” airport uses lighting only when it is needed and does not run lighting the rest of the time, which could minimize traffic for the airport. Schmitz reported in a 2016 survey there were 4,000 operations at the airport including landings and take-offs.

Out of the 135 airports in Minnesota, only 11 are dark, with seven of those 11 being near water sites. Wells’ airport is only one of 11 with turf landing strips as well.

The grant proposals to assist the airport are supposed to be completed by April of 2018.

“The sooner we get our grant work written, the better, that way our dollars can be spoken for by MnDOT,” said Schmitz. “If you really think about it, this is for the future of our community. Please take that into consideration.”

With that, the council approved their consent agenda for the meeting and began a budget work session to begin discussing their 2018 tax levy plans.

The City’s main focus for the upcoming year is street equipment, including a new street sweeper and blower, as well as a new miller, which would be the property of the city, unlike before when Wells had rented millers for projects.

“We could easily save some big bucks if we purchased our own miller,” said street foreman Mike Pyzick.

However, it was council woman Whitney Harig who brought up the discussion of the Wells Public Library and its needs for some remodeling.

Pyzick’s answer to Harig’s suggestion seemed to be an easy one for Pyzick to make.

“I would do the library first, if you had to pick,” said Pyzick.

The council also discussed the cost of hiring a new city administrator after the resignation of Robin Leslie, as well as a boiler for the Wells swimming pool.

The orignally proposed preliminary 2018 tax levy was set at eight percent with the total levy amount being $1,053,501. Last year’s levy sat at $975,501. However the council knew that with all of the improvements they have planned for, an eight percent increase would not be enough to cover a multitude of projects.

With many budget items on the table, the council chose to plan a higher levy which can be later minimized during the Truth in Taxation meeting, which is set to be held on Monday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m. in the Wells Community Center.

“If we go with a high number, we can whittle it down,” said councilman John Herman. “But if we start low, we can’t go up.”

The council began with an increase to 10 percent, but then increased the levy further to 15 percent. Crystal Dulas made the formal motion, with Brenda Weber making a second on the motion. The motion was carried unanimously.

Council members also discussed dissolving the Wells Flame Theatre board in order to create a theatre subcommittee for the public in which council and public are welcome to attend. The motion passed unanimously.

The council also approved a resolution to allow the Wells Area Chamber of Commerce a lawful gambling permit for their Las Vegas casino night fundraiser.

Prior to the regular meeting beginning, the Wells City Council was in closed session for close to an hour regarding labor negotiations through local union chapters including representative Chris Hanson of the local 3953 AFSCME, Gene Grover of Local 49 IUOE, and Renee Zachman of Local 278 LELS. No action was taken.