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AIRPORT COMISSION: Water, sewage service expansion bill presented in Senate hearing

The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport is one step closer to expansion of water and sewer services from the city of Brainerd to the airport.

It’s a small step, but an important one.

A 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 to service the expansion project.

Airport manager, Jeff Wig updated the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission Thursday on the progress the bill. Wig and Brainerd City Engineer Jeff Hulsether testified at a hearing Wednesday before the Minnesota Senate where the bill was presented by Sen. Ruud to the Senate’s Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Division of the Committee on Finance.

According to the minutes from the Wednesday Senate hearing, the bill, S.F. 1039 was laid over for recommendation to the Capital Investment Committee for inclusion in the omnibus bonding bill.

The bill has not yet received a hearing in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

“They didn’t kill it,” Wig said. “It’s still there.”

Al Doty, representing U.S. Rick Nolan’s office at Thursday’s Airport Commission, meeting remarked that a bill laid over was a good thing. “They’re not just being nice,” Doty said. “It means that it has a shot.”

Doty questioned whether the Legislature was doing a special bonding session specifically for the service expansion. Typically, bills involving bonding issues are presented in the second session of a legislative term.

Wig said Ward explained to him that if the bill continues through the Legislature, it would likely be approved in the next session. “He wanted to make sure to have it introduced as quickly as possible in order to have it on everybody’s radar screen,” Wig said.

Wig said the airport is working with Short Elliot Hendrickson (SEH) to also identify alternatives to the expansion. SEH consulting engineer, Bob Cohrs said SEH has so far identified one alternative to the expansion that would involve a system that would serve only the airport. “It’s either (the expansion from Brainerd) or an expensive alternative,” Wig told the commission.

Sen. Ruud said in a phone interview she believes the bill is gaining support in the Senate. She said she was impressed with the presentation made by both Wig and Hulsether before the Senate Committee yesterday.

“I was really pleased with the outcome,” Ruud said. “(Wig) gained a lot of support yesterday.” Ruud said she believes the long-term effects of the expansion project are vital to development in the area. “I think it’s such an important project for Brainerd,” she said. “Nothing is more important than the airport when it comes to jobs, and tourism growth for our area.”

Ruud wasn’t sure if the bill has yet received a hearing in the House.

Concerns regarding the assessment cost of the expansion were aired by the commission. Commissioner Jeff Czeczok questioned who was responsible for the cost of the assessment of the length the expansion would travel from Lum Park through both Brainerd city and township property before reaching the airport property.

“If it’s state money, who gets paid back,” Czeczok asked. Czeczok said it was his understanding that in regard to projects funded by state bond, there would be no assessment.

Wig said that according to the bill, as it was authored by the legislative members, there would be no local bond share. “There would be nothing assessed for the property owners to pay back,” said Wig who explained that the bond would pay for most if not all of the costs associated with the expansion.

In other action the commission:

Unanimously approved the minutes from the March 7 commission meeting as well at the bills paid for the month of March. Wig said the large amount of ice and snow fall contributed to additional maintenance costs for the month.

Heard report from interior designer Danae Anderson on the completion of the first phase of the airports interior redecorating following the 2011-2012 renovations. The first phase involved scenic and decorative art work throughout the terminal including acoustical paneling to reduce noise in the building. The total cost of the first phase was below the $15,000. The two additional phases planned over the next two years will bring the total cost of the interior decoration project to an estimated $45,000.

Learned of changes and expansions with the airport’s fixed-based operation (FBO) Airmotive, Inc. Airmotive including one new and one pending hire and the purchase of additional Cessna 172 aircraft.

Learned of an award given by the Minnesota Council of Airports for the Project of the Year to the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport for the terminal remodel. Wig will attend the Minnesota Council of Airports Apr. 16-17 session to accept the award.

The commission adjourned to a working session from approximately 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Commission Chairman Andy Larson said the purpose of the planning session was to continue developing long-term goals for the airport and to help identify ways the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport can better integrate into the community.

Larson said the commission wanted to determine measurable goals for development by involving as many stakeholders from with in the community to ensure that the long-term planning that compliments the goals of development for the lakes area. “The airport is not the objective, it’s one of the strategies to economic development,” Larson said. “If you don’t plan, nothing is going to happen.”

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.