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City panel drops permit requirement for fueling aircraft from private tanks

WILLMAR -- Pilots would not be required to obtain a city permit to fuel their aircraft from private portable fuel tanks under regulations proposed by the Airport Commission and approved Tuesday by the City Council's Public Works/Safety Committee.

City staff had proposed the permit be included as part of the airport's minimum standards for aeronautical activity. The Airport Commission opposed the permit proposal.

In the section regulating self-fueling from portable tanks, city staff had recommended private fuelers be required to obtain a city permit and pay a fee. The fee would be $20 for fueling 50 or fewer gallons per year. The fee would increase to $100 for fueling more than 50 gallons per year.

A private fueler is one who dispenses fuel from a portable tank of 119 or fewer gallons. Dispensing fuel from a portable tank larger than 119 gallons requires state certification, according to Willmar Fire Chief Marv Calvin.

Pilots disagreed with the permit idea when the proposal was discussed at the Feb. 27 Airport Commission meeting. The commission proposed its own recommendations, which dropped the permit and fee provision, and voted to send the proposed regulations to the City Council.

City Administrator Michael Schmit told the committee Tuesday evening that the permit was needed to better manage the fueling activity.

Committee member Ron Christianson said the permit was not necessary and showed a lack of trust in the pilots doing the fueling.

Committee member Denis Anderson said the city has some rights and an obligation to run the airport, but he asked whether a fee is needed. He liked the idea of knowing who is doing the fueling.

Airport Commission Chairman Arnie Plowman said the permit was not needed for fueling a small amount of fuel.

He said pilots are already certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate an aircraft, which included fueling.

After discussion, the committee voted to approve the Airport Commission's recommendations, and included a city provision that requires private fuelers notify the airport manager in the event of a fuel spill within 48 hours of the occurrence.

Plowman said notifying the airport manager about a spill was not an issue. He said there would be no problem in following the notification procedures. Plowman was among half a dozen pilots and Airport Commission members attending the committee meeting.

In an interview, Plowman said the issue probably came to a head with the construction of the new airport. He said the city was "looking to tidy up the operational rules of the airport, and we all think that's a good idea as well.''

Plowman said private tanks are located in pickup trucks or on trailers. He said a permit is not needed to fill from a city-owned pump, "but if they fill from their own pump there is a suggestion they should need a permit. We find that to be incongruous.''

The full council will consider the recommendations on Monday.

In other business, the committee:

- Voted to add $20,000 from the 2006 budget to the 2007 budget to buy $34,097 in playground equipment for Rice Park and Cantigo Park.

- Approved a request from Bethel Lutheran Church to close a one-block portion of downtown Becker Avenue for the third annual "If It's Tuesday It Must Be Bethel'' summer concert series.

- Approval final payment of $99,740 to Duininck Bros. of Prinsburg for the $3,464,509 airport grading and drainage project in 2003, and final payment of $727 to HNTB for its $401,200 contract to engineer the grading and drainage work.

- Approved final payment of $1,808 to the Municipal Utilities for a $36,169 path lighting project on Second Street Northeast, Valley Brook Addition and 30th Street Northwest.

- Approved the low bid of $205,820 from Granite Ledge Electric to install traffic signals at the intersection of 19th Avenue and Fifth Street Southeast. Engineer's estimate was $220,700.

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