We’ll use the money

Houston County to FAA, ‘We’ll use the money’
By Craig Moorhead
Government/Sports Writer

By consensus, county commissioners decided to tell the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) that $150,000 in federal airport entitlement dollars dating from 2009 will be spent this year. County Engineer Brian Pogodzinski said that the funds are now “use it or lose it.”

“I need to respond to the FAA by the end of next week,” Pogodzinski told the board on Jan. 10.

“There’s a one-page form we need to send in telling them whether or not we’re going to use our funds.”

The Houston County Airport receives $150,000 each year from the FAA, Pogodzinski said. Those funds can only be saved for a little over three years, so the maximum amount (which Houston County will have in 2012) that the airport can amass for a project is $600,000.

Typically, airports also loan out funds to each other in order to compile enough money for a project.

Winona County currently owes Houston County $41,000 under this arrangement, Pogodzinski explained.

Choices for commissioners began to get complicated at that point.

Funding for a multi-million dollar realignment/expansion won’t be available until 2016 or later, Pogodzinski told the board.

Current estimates vary widely, from $2.5 to 7 million for airport improvements, since a single design has not been adopted or approved.

“After I got this letter from the FAA, MnDOT Aeronautics contacted me and asked if we would be interested in doing an overlay this year on our runway?” Pogodzinski reported.

“What the state’s saying is that they don’t think the pavement is going to hold up until 2016, and they’re afraid we’re going to have to shut the airport down prior to that even if we’re going to do a re-alignment project.”

The overlay would be a 95/5 percent state/local split, even though maintenance projects are usually 80/20 or 70/30, Pogodzinski said.

He said the runway would probably cost $200,000 to overlay with two inches of asphalt and adding new blacktop to the hanger/parking lot area could push the cost to $400,000.

The job would need to be bid out by July, he noted.

“No matter what the county will have to pay the local match,” Pogodzinski added.

“In a lot of ways this is bad timing because we don’t want to decide on an overlay prior to getting the EA (environmental assessment) study done and know what the long-term goal is,” Pogodzinski said. “But, we need to let them know.”

Paving the runway only to tear it out in a few years for a re-alignment and extension doesn’t make a lot of sense, he noted.

“I would recommend telling the FAA that we’re going to have a project. Whether it’s an overlay of the runway with paving between the hangers and parking area or it’s just the hangers and parking area and leave the runway alone for a year, so in 2013 after the EA study is done we can look at those options as well.

“We could potentially spend those dollars on design and survey (for a new runway) as well,” he added.

The EA study should be complete sometime in March, board members noted.

Commissioner Tom Bjerke said, “An overlay would basically keep the thing open. We could use $25,000 we have saved for land acquisition (for the local match), so there would be no cost in new taxes. It would give us at least four more years to decide what we’re going to do.”

Sign policy approved

In other news, the board approved a federally mandated “Road sign inventory, retro-reflectivity compliance evaluation, and replacement policy” with virtually no discussion.

Pogodzinski presented the plan, which he said meets 2015 federal standards. Bjerke said townships will also need to adopt sign policies to meet federal requirements.

Discussion with MPCA held

Board Chairman Jack Miller reported that he along with county zoning personnel had another meeting with Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) staff on Jan. 6.

“We’ve established some good communications going forward,” Miller stated.

Last radio grant approved

Commissioners approved one last application for a 2007 Public Safety Interoperability Communications Grant that has supplied funds for five counties in the region to purchase radio upgrade equipment.

Chief Deputy Scott Yeiter said that with $6,993 in local matching funds, which he proposed should come from DWI forfeiture money already available, the county can get a total of $34,968 to spend on more ARMER radios.

“Right now, I don’t have any extra radios to hand out in case one gets broken,” Yeiter told commissioners, adding that various county departments could request the radios as long as they paid their share of the 20 percent match.

The county’s Highway Department needs three more radios, Yeiter said, and Public Health may even request one, as could the surveyor.

Depending on the model, ARMER radios range from $1,400 to $3,000 per unit with police radios being the most expensive, he said.

Carpet quote reviewed

The board reviewed quotes from three carpet suppliers with an eye towards replacing the existing floor covering in the old county courtroom.

An offer from Torgerson’s Paint and Floor Covering of Caledonia to provide carpeting was accepted, but the exact cost to re-habilitate the floor of the courtroom (so it can become the new commissioner’s meeting room) is somewhat unclear.

The board will need to decide which option it will pursue. Bid options vary such as the cost to tear out the old flooring versus do-it-yourself, replacing or not replacing the base, and the type of carpet squares to be used.

The quote to install carpet tile in the courtroom only with removal of old carpet was $4,625 from the Caledonia supplier.

Another closed session held

Commissioners went into closed session once again to discuss a land-rights lawsuit via conference call with MCIT attorney Jay Squires.

Miller said the topic would be the latest lawsuit now going through the federal court system.

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