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Airport panel hears from another carrier

  Airmax Airlines officials Wednesday presented their air carrier as an option for the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport in the wake of news last month that Delta Air Lines was seeking to terminate its service to Brainerd.

Robert H. Powell Jr., president of the Minnesota based corporation that operates out of the Anoka County-Blaine Airport, said Airmax offers a strong viable product for Brainerd to consider. The 45-year veteran of the aviation business said Airmax Airlines was a stand-alone air carrier that does not depend on federal subsidies.

“I’m standing here as an option,” he said. 

The aiport qualifies for Essential Air Service subsidies but its air carriers don’t receive them.

“It appears the subsidy thing is going away,” Powell said.

Great Lakes Airlines, the air carrier that Brainerd Airport Manager Steve Sievek said Delta is negotiating with to replace the Delta air service to Brainerd, is a recipient of federal subsidies.

Powell said his company would make Brainerd a hub. He said his firm wouldn’t be interested in serving Brainerd if Great Lakes Airlines is serving here also. He said the bottom line is that there isn’t enough business to support more than one carrier. Powell also offered his company’s services as a consultant if the airport wanted help to recruit another air carrier.

Rachel Reabe Nystrom, a Crow Wing County Board and airport commission member, expressed her satisfaction with news of Airmax’s interest.

“You leave us with a song in our heart,” she said.

Earlier, Sievek said he is seeking a meeting with Great Lake Airlines, the carrier that is apparently “the airline of choice” to replace Delta. Delta Air Lines has 90 days to find a replacement carrier and it can’t pull out of Brainerd until a replacement is found.

Wednesday’s commission meeting was conducted at the Historic Crow Wing County Courthouse because the terminal is being renovated. Members Andy Larson and Brad Davis were unable to attend.

In other action the commission:

Unanimously adopted the 2012 preliminary budget summary with a total income of $942,264 and total expense of $946,264. The 2011 final budget summary was $935,201 and its total expense was $935,201.

Sievek said there were unknowns because of Delta’s recent announcement but these were the best numbers available at this time.

Agreed to notify airport union employees that it’s prepared to have a committee meet with them on renewal of the contract that expires in 2011.

“I don’t think we’ve got huge contract issues this year,” Sievek said.

Learned from Sievek and Airmotive employee Mike Petersen that they are still trying to determine to best way to remove the jet fighter at the airport entrance from its display pedestal for repairs. Consideration will be given to hiring professional riggers to remove the plane. 

“Who wants to do “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour” with an airplane on a stick,” she said.

“We really don’t want to break it,” Petersen said.

Heard Joel Dresel, a consulting engineer with Short Elliott Hendrickson, report that Phase I of the terminal remodeling project was completed. Sievek said that phase was the most complicated of the project.

Discussed the abandonment of Runway 12/30 and the securing of grant money to pay for it. Requests for the grants  have already been submitted.

Heard Jeff Czeczok of Brainerd ask about legal expenses for attorney Patrick Krueger and maintained commission members mocked him at an airport commission meeting when comments were made and laughter was heard after a statement by Commissioner Nystrom about her email’s in box filling up and Czeczok having her number on speed dial.

Nystrom said she has 11,000 constituents, many of whom email her. 

Chair Beth Pfingsten told Czeczok she was sorry if he felt he was mocked and that wasn’t the intention of the board.

Directed that a letter of support be sent to the Trust For Public Land in support of the DNR’s proposal to purchase about 2,000 acres of a Potlatch parcel near the airport with Outdoor Heritage money. The land, which includes 2.5 miles of Mississippi River shoreline, would be part of a Mississippi River Habitat Complex, Gary Drotts of the DNR said.

Commissioner Pfingsten abstained from voting on the matter because her husband is a DNR employee.

Heard Steve Arhart of Airmotive Enterprises give his quarterly report. He said fuel sales in June were consistent with last year’s sales despite a slow fire season.

Heard Sievek report that no conflict of interest training has been scheduled yet for commissioners.

The next airport commission meeting is set for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 6.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860.