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Does spending $5M on the airport make sense?

By Staff | Mar 17, 2008

A million here, a million there

As the pundit said, “a million here, a million there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money.” Blue Earth residents might think spending over $5 million on the airport is an expense we can do without.

There is a point to that, except for the fact that Blue Earth isn’t spending its own money. The vast majority of the money that will be spent on the airport improvements comes from state and federal monies that are available for airport improvements. Only about five percent of the money spent at the airport over the next five years will be from local taxpayer coffers.

It is a good deal; one that is way to good to pass up. It will give the city a quality asset that they could not afford to do on their own. And an airport is an asset, just like having a good park system, a nice pool or a hospital. It is true that not as many people use an airport as the other items, but it is something that a quality town needs to have, if they want to be able to attract new business and industry.

What about the streets?

We heard at least one local resident remark that instead of paving a new runway, the city should be paving the streets that everyone uses.

A good point. This winter has been exceptionally hard on the streets in Blue Earth and other towns in the county, as well as the county roads themselves. Frost heaves, broken pavement and potholes as large as a wheel are seen everywhere.

We were happy to see the city earmark some tax money for streets this year. Unfortunately it will be enough for a bandaid on a major wound. Some type of five year plan needs to be followed in order to get the streets back to something drivable.

It would be nice if the five mill for the airport could actually be designated for streets instead. That, of course, can’t be done. It is grant money for airports, not streets. There is some state money available for streets, but of course it has to be spread over the whole state, and every place has some bad roads and everyone wants a piece of that pie.

There is no easy solution, but the problem needs to be addressed now, and a plan developed for future repairs.