Area airport advocates stressed Tuesday a need to move forward with a proposed second runway project in order to secure federal funding.
That was the word to Crow Wing County commissioners who met with airport officials Tuesday. Commissioners agreed to meet with Brainerd city officials and discuss funding options and potentially a name change for the Brainerd-Crow Wing County Regional Airport.
The proposed project, about eight years in the making, includes an additional 6,500 foot runway, lights, markings, a taxiway and moving the DNR tanker base. Project cost is estimated at $15 million with the Federal Aviation Administration paying 90 percent of the runway and taxiway costs. Moving the DNR tanker base could receive 60 percent funding from the state. Remaining dollars -- about $2.5 million -- would be needed locally from the airport commission's funds.
The airport is funded jointly by the city of Brainerd and Crow Wing County. The city of Brainerd is the airport's fiscal agent.
"We need to keep this project advancing," Airport Manager Steve Sievek said Tuesday. Sievek said if the project moves forward, construction on the second runway could begin in 2003. "... There is a lot to be accomplished before that time. We need to get off the dime."
Sievek said he is convinced the future airport expansion hinges on a second runway. He said the runway is needed to make the airport more accessible in varying weather conditions. For passengers, that equates to fewer canceled flights because of wind and weather conditions.
"It will make us an all weather airport," Sievek said. "In terms of commercial service -- that is a must."
In order to secure federal funds for the runway project, Sievek said the airport needs to demonstrate commitment to pay the local share.
In May, commissioners and Brainerd City Council members met in a joint session at the Brainerd-Crow Wing County Regional Airport to hear an update on a proposed second runway, the growth of the regional airport and a possible airport name change.
Tuesday commissioners also noted the need to get Cass County involved in discussions about the airport's future, in part because of high use by area resorts located in Cass County. In the past that has been one of the reasons for consideration of an airport name change.
Brad Davis, airport commission chairman, said Cass County resort operators expressed support of airport improvements. "I think the timing is right in a lot of ways."
Commissioner Terry Sluss said funding for the local share may not have to go to a bond referendum, which was previously discussed, and there may be reserve funds instead.
County Administrator Peter Herlofsky Jr. said the city and county can look at issues and a plan and then widen the conversation to Cass County in terms of potential contribution to airport operation costs, not specifically the runway project.
Sievek said the airline industry is definitely reeling after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. County Board Chairman Ed Larsen said that may make smaller airports less of a Federal Aviation Administration priority in the future.
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