The Crow Wing County Board unanimously agreed Tuesday to approve general obligation bonds that will allow the Brainerd-Crow Wing County Regional Airport to proceed with a runway construction project.
Total project cost is estimated at $15 million. The bonds will be used to fund the local portion of the project, estimated at $2.5 million that will be shared with Brainerd. The other $12.5 million will be funded with state and federal dollars.
This decision came after a lengthy discussion and a failed motion made by Commissioner Dewey Tautges.
Tautges said he has received a lot of calls on the runway project and said he would like the county to hold a referendum and let the people decide if the general obligation bonds should cover the local share.
Tautges said if a referendum would be held he would support the airport and go out and market the project. However, the commissioner said he would support the project either way.
The motion failed without a second.
Brainerd City Council member Bob Olson made the same statement Monday at a city council meeting about a referendum. Olson voted against the city council's resolution in regard to issuance of general obligation bonds. The resolution passed on a 6-1 vote.
Brad Davis, chair of the airport commission, said few people attended two information meetings about the runway project. Because of the low turnout, he said he believes there is little opposition to the local share for the runway.
"We take that as a positive," said Davis.
Airport Manager Steve Sievek said the majority of the people who attended the meetings were more concerned with the environmental impact than the funding. The environmental issues have been addressed.
"We're here to make decisions," said Commissioner Gil Dewes. "If the public doesn't attend ... we have to do it for them."
"I'm in favor of it," said Chairman John Ferrari. "It will mean a lot to this area."
Commissioner Terry Sluss said it is the county's responsibility to keep the tourist industry strong for the future. He said the runway will help support tourism. He also said that right now the interest rates are low and are not in the double digits like in the past -- so this would help keep the taxes lower.
Property taxes for the county portion of the bonds would be about $5 a year per parcel, said Davis.
The proposed runway would be the same length, 6,500 feet, as the existing main runway, and would become the primary runway because of its direction into the prevailing winds.
Construction of the runway could begin next year, with completion anticipated in the fall of 2004.
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