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Bill seeks bonding to extend water, sewer to Brainerd airport

Three Brainerd area lawmakers have authored companion bonding bills that would extend water and sanitary sewer service from Brainerd to the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.

News of that legislative action was presented Thursday to the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission, apparently surprising Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said, noting that some government actions proceed slowly while others are expedited quickly.

The bill, authored by Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter and Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, in the House and Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, in the Senate, calls for $7,150,000 to be appropriated from bonds for the project. The legislation was referred to the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee. Airport Manager Jeff Wig said the extension from Brainerd’s Lum Park to the airport would cost about $6 million and about another $1 million would be spent on infrastructure improvements in east Brainerd to accommodate the connection.

The impetus for the bill was a state fire marshal demand that the airport improve its water capacity by April 2016. Currently the airport’s sprinkler system is connected to a well that depends on electricity.

Vice Chair Don Jacobson and Commissioner Jeff Czeczok questioned whether other alternatives were available to the board and what Minnesota statute gave the fire marshal the authority to call for such improvements. Jacobson wondered if the fire marshal’s requirements might be met by a holding tank and a generator.

“I’d like to know the options,” Czeczok said.

Joel Dresel of the engineering firm of Short Elliott Hendrickson said commission members may be getting ahead of themselves since there’s no official request for the commission to spend any money on this project at this point.

Wig explained to commissioners that there was a feeling that unless movement was made on this issue, that it might be too late for action, should the commissioners decide that they wanted to seek legislative bonding action.

Contacted Thursday at the Capitol, Ward said there was a reason to move quickly since March 15 is the deadline by which bills should be through the committee process. The Baxter lawmaker said if he gets feedback from the airport commission that it doesn’t support the measure then he won’t move the bill.

“I always listen to my constituents,” he said.

Ruud said Thursday the lawmakers’ intent was to get the bill started and make sure the information was correct. In the Senate, the bill was referred to the Finance Committee.

“We thought it was important to get it introduced, to have the conversation,” she said.

If the project does not get into this year’s bonding bill, Radinovich said that by introducing it now the project is higher up on the list for next year, which is a bonding year.

“You get it moving,” he said. “You get it on the list so we don’t miss any deadlines.”

In other action the commission:

Unanimously approved the final 2013 budget with expenditures and revenue of $952,919 compared to expenditures and revenue of $936,264 in the 2012 budget.

Gave support to a request from Bev Hoemberg, administrative specialist for the National Joint Powers Alliance of Staples, for SkyWest to add flights on June 4 and June 6 for an event the alliance is hosting at Madden’s then. The alliance is inviting about 130 executives to the event.

Authorized any interested commissioner to attend the Minnesota Council of Airports session April 17-19.

Scheduled a Lease Committee meeting for noon March 18 to consider a lease renewal for a five-plex hangar.

Heard Wig report on various issues including airport participation in Friday’s Bridges Career Exploration Day at Central Lakes College and the Brainerd Lakes Chamber’s April 5-6 Marketplace; his presentation at Pine River and Pequot Lakes Rotary clubs; and that the insurance check had been received for the awning damage at the airport.

Expressed support for volunteer Mike Petersen’s efforts to bring a 1929 Ford Trimotor plane to the airport from July 4-7 to provide rides to the public and possibly perform a flyover for Brainerd Fourth of July participants at Don Adamson Field.

Learned of a response from the Crow Wing County attorney that it did not need to have a budget committee.

Heard Commissioner Nystrom commend Delta Global System employees at the Brainerd airport for helping her retrieve a bag that had been lost after she traveled to China. Commissioner Beth Pfingsten commended Wig and other airport staff members for their help in fixing a hangar door for a tenant.

Scheduled its next monthly meeting for 9:30 a.m. April 4.

Adjourned to a working session from approximately 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday for the purpose of long-term strategic planning.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860