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Committee recommends approval of airport land leases

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WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council's Finance Committee will recommend that council members approve 12 leases on farmland surrounding the old and new airports and the new wastewater treatment facility.

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The committee will make its recommendation to the council at the 7 p.m. meeting on Monday in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building, 700 Litchfield Ave. S.W.

Airport Manager/City Planner Megan Sauer told the committee this week that the city opened sealed bids on Sept. 10 from farmers interested in operating various tracts of land ranging in size from 10.62 acres to 162.36 areas. The leases run four years, from Dec. 15, 2010, to Dec. 15, 2014.

Lands next to airports are used for clear zones as required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Crops planted on farmland are required to be low crops, such as alfalfa, according to City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday.

The city received bids for 12 of 13 tracts. The city asked adjacent renters if they were interested in bidding on the 13th tract, but no interest was shown, Halliday told the committee.

An unsuccessful bidder, Dan Groothuis of Pennock, raised concerns over the bidding process. The city had acquired some land from Groothuis for clear zone at the new airport under the eminent domain process.

Groothuis said he mistakenly bid on the wrong parcel and asked the committee to grant him the right of first refusal for the parcel that he had intended to bid on. Halliday said the right of first refusal was not granted on parcels acquired by the city.

Also, Groothuis asked why the city requests sealed bids. Halliday said taxpayers always appear to benefit from the use of sealed bids to get the highest bid for the land. Halliday said Groothuis could sublet the tract from the successful bidder.

Committee Chairman Denis Anderson told Groothuis there was nothing the committee could do.

In other business Monday, the council:

- Will receive the report of the Public Works/Finance Committee.

- Consider currency exchange applications from Ace Cash Express and Quick Funds.

- Will receive the report from the Public Works/Safety Committee.

- Will consider Charter Commission appointments.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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