Representatives of the City of Redwood Falls made their case for state bonding dollars Oct. 24 when they met with members of the Minnesota Senate capital investment committee as part of its tour of projects in the state.
The request being made by the city is for $2.128 million from the state to address needed upgrades to the municipal airport.
District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms, who represents Redwood Falls, said this project is not a wish list item but a must as the city moves forward.
Tom Quackenbush, Redwood Falls mayor, reiterated that assessment as he talked about the value that the airport brings to the community. Quackenbush called the airport part of the lifeblood of the city, as it strives to meet the needs of its manufacturing, healthcare and ag science industries.
These are all growing areas in the community, Quackenbush added, indicating that the common thread through which they all can see that continued success is the municipal airport.
“Aviation is growing,” said Jim Doering, city public works project coordinator, who presented the request to the committee members.
According to Doering, the city is seeing an increase in the number of users, adding the construction of a new seven bay hangar at the local airport had nine letters of intent to rent space before the building was erected.
Doering said the airport is being used regularly, with an estimated 12-14 operations daily. He said that number has been on the rise this past year.
Doering said the addition of the new hangar increased the number of operations. A few years ago, the airport was seeing 9,000 operations per year, with that number of take-offs and landings now at 12,000. The goal, added, Doering is to reach the 20,000 operations mark. The upgrades being proposed at the airport would help the city meet that.
While the city is requesting a little over $2 million from the state, the total project has been estimated at $5.556 million. Other funds for the project would come from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the amount of $3.049 million with a match of $338,800 from the city.
The scope of work being proposed would include an upgrade to the runway. Doering said the plan would be to do a reclamation of the runway that would including grinding the current bituminous down to the base and then adding a layer of bituminous to the top.
He added the plan would also include placing grooves in the runway. The current smooth surface can serve as a deterrent to some pilots, especially when it is wet, said Doering, adding making the runway rough would allow for better stopping ability for larger planes.
The runway is 4,001 feet in length, said Doering, adding in 2009 work was done to the runway, but cracks are already showing up and the new work would address that. Doering said the city’s streets department is spending approximately $15,000 annually sealing the cracks on the runway.
The project would also include an upgrade to the airport runway lighting from its current incandescent lights to LEDs.
Addressing stormwater issues is also part of the plan, said Doering. He told the committee when heavy rains come there are times when water will pool, and that water then attracts birds.
The last thing anyone working at an airport wants is to have a lot of birds.
Geese and airplanes do not mix, said Doering.
The local airport is one of 133 in Minnesota that receive funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. A state priority project planning list includes all of the needs of the state’s system of airports. That list includes $38 million of needs, but the state only has $7.5 million to meet them, Doering explained.
Doering was asked if the city had requested funds from the department of transportation, and Doering said it had not. However, he added the city had made recent requests for funds from the department that were not approved.
A member of the Senate committee encouraged the city to apply anyway.
The municipal airport receives revenue from the sale of fuel to pilots as well as from the rental of hangar space and office space. Doering said there are currently six businesses that are housed at the airport.
A 2009 study by the University of Minnesota showed that medium sized airports in Minnesota contributed $434 million in economic activity for the state and created 3,758 jobs and $184 million in labor income.
Doering said that an economic contribution calculator indicated that the Redwood Falls municipal airport contributes approximately $200,000 to the local economy annually.
A similar funding request was made to the House investment committee earlier this month, said Doering.
Bonding funding proposals will be addressed during the 2020 legislative session.