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Rushford halts airport hangar construction

Fri, Jun 26th, 2009
Posted in Government

At the June 22nd meeting, the city council began by putting a temporary halt on a plan for development at the Municipal Airport. The action plan calls for the design and construction of a 6-unit T-hangar project. While the city is eligible for a state loan, it would require a sizeable payment ($1200) per month. City Administrator Windy Block stated, "Prior to now, there's been no way to feasibly do that."

In a positive turn of events, the federal authorities have found that they want to increase Rushford's viability. Airport Commission and council member Larry Johnson added, "If we wait, it turns into a better deal," referring to an option to secure federal funds for the project rather than defraying the project cost to the tax base.

With a "new plan year" beginning in October of this year, the city plans to continue with engineering of the project, but the seeking of bids and construction won't take place until after that time, thus avoiding having to self-fund the project.

Block chuckled and added, "It's a chance to take advantage of a nice offer from the federal government to help with the project."

When asked by council member Robert Dahl if federal funds were guaranteed, Block responded, "By current law it is. That's if guarantee is a fair word with the government."

The hanger plan would require a specific number of planes be based out of the Rushford airport. 12 names have potentially been put together as those who are interested in having a hanger, but some of these are expected to withdraw their names due to improvements at the Winona airport.

Projected price by engineers is based on previous experience, but similarly engineered projects are coming in with costs at only 80-85%. Block told the council, "Even the commissioners believe that the cost will be less."

Resoundingly the plan "sounds like a great opportunity."

Assessment Policy

The proposed assessment policy for the city's water and sewer is moving forward. While the policy can change, it will be based at 30%. This option for change gives the city flexibility should special circumstances arise. More importantly, it provides a starting point from which proper calculations can now be made.

Looking at both sides of the issue, Block stated, "You might find that there are things that need to change, but you have been consistent to this point. You haven't played any games."

EDA & Flood Funding

Two local businesses were denied all or a portion of submitted needs for flood recovery loans. Rushford Dental, LLC. was denied $4,422, with both the EDA and the city believing that the claim was not appropriate for the funds and that there was a "higher priority elsewhere." Rutger's Real Estate was approved for only $1,522 of Category 1 flood recovery funds, out of a total amount of $19,830 submitted. It was stipulated Rutger's submit adequate information to support their request. The EDA believed that they were unable to provide such information. Both denials create appealable situations with Block stating, "They (Rutger's) have led us to believe that they will appeal this decision."

Jim Kitchens, owner and operator of Nordic Lanes and The Creamery restaurant, was approved for a transfer of previously awarded Category 1 funds (90% forgivable) to either Category 1A or 2, both of which are fully repayable. Mr. Kitchens is looking at two options for expansion either on the east or west side of the facilities. A determination of which type of funding will be made at a later date after more information can be gathered on the expansion possibilities.

Downtown Hotel

In a topic of usual tension, Block unsurely brought up the issue of the proposed downtown hotel towards the close of the meeting. "I'm not sure I should bring this up now, but we're 42 days into moratorium and we do not have any communication from the downtown hotel group." The city was awarded $593,000 to replace the Tenborg Center, which was damaged in the 2007 flood, with the development of a 400-seat community center. Obviously interested in finding a way to leverage the funds, Block further stated, "We need to move ahead. I have to assume at this point that the effort has fallen apart."

The next meeting will be Monday, July 13th, at 6:30 p.m., city hall.

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