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Our opinion: THE AIRPORT

A bright, remodeled terminal at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport was the focus of considerable pride at Tuesday night’s open house. For those flying into Brainerd for the first time, it presents a sleek, modern appearance that makes a nice first impression.

The completion of the project has to be the highlight of what, in other respects, has been a tough year for the airport and its commission.

In 2011 the commission accepted a resignation from a commissioner following conflict of interest charges and removed its airport manager after citing him for failing to ensure the required inspection and certification of deicing equipment. And the co-owners of the airport — the Brainerd City Council and the Crow Wing County Board — have expressed some unease with what’s transpired in the past year. Brainerd City Council President Mary Koep even went so far as to suggest the jointly funded airport be brought under the authority of either the city or the county.

The problem with Koep’s suggestion is that both the city and the county have an equal interest in the airport. Why would one entity choose to give up control in favor of the other?

To further complicate the matter Cass County and its resorts are among the biggest beneficiaries of the airport yet the county pays no part of the facility’s operating expenses. Wouldn’t it be fair if Cass County paid a proportional share and then had some say in its operation?

The airport commission is currently an independent body and it’s charged with managing the airport and its personnel. This is true despite its dependence on the city and county to approve its budget. We think that’s the way the commission should continue. There’s nothing wrong with the current structure of the panel. Both the city and county have elected representatives who serve on the airport commission. Whatever problems the airport commission has can be cured by greater attention to detail and increased transparency.

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.
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