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Willmar, Minn., council OKs professional services contract for runway crack sealing project

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council has sought professional services to design an airport runway crack sealing project. Officials say the contract is needed because crack sealing runways is different than crack sealing roads and streets.

The council Monday night approved a contract with the engineering firm of Bolton and Menk of Willmar to design specifications for bidding and construction services for the runway crack sealing project. The firm will develop a cost estimate.

The council's Finance Committee recommended the $13,442 contract.

During discussion, council member Steve Ahmann asked why the city is paying an engineering firm to design the project.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens said the city does not have the expertise and she said runways are different than streets and roads, and runways must be able to withstand the impact of aircraft taking off and landing.

"It's a different expertise,'' she said.

Finance Committee Chairman Denis Anderson, who reported the committee's recommendation, said the committee had the same question and he said it was answered.

Council member Ron Christianson asked what goes into crack sealing.

Anderson said a Bolton and Menk representative explained the work to the committee June 11.

"It's not as easy as it sounds. That's the summary of what I got out of it,'' Anderson said.

In related business, the council approved a Finance Committee recommendation to move $5,000 from the airport capital outlay fund to the professional services fund to help pay for the Bolton and Menk contract.

The city had already budgeted $9,000 for professional services but needed another $5,000 to cover additional costs, said Stevens.

City Planner/Airport Manager Megan Sauer told the Tribune that crack sealing is needed to maintain the six-year-old runway. The Minnesota Department of Transportation inspected the runway last year and said the work was needed.

In other business, Anderson reported that the Finance Committee received proposed 2013 budget requests from Stevens, Finance Director Steve Okins, and Planning and Development Director Bruce Peterson.

The committee is receiving and discussing budget requests from department directors before Mayor Frank Yanish presents his proposed 2013 budget during the first meeting in August.

Christianson took issue with Peterson's request for a 15 percent increase in construction permit fees, zoning fees and rental licensing fees, and increases in plan review, zoning and rental licensing fees.

Peterson requested the increases to cover lagging revenue due to a construction downturn and due to increases in fuel costs, continuing education for staff and an increase in professional design and consulting services for downtown and miscellaneous development projects.

Christianson spoke against comparing Willmar's fees to fees charged by other cities. He said raising fees is never the proper thing to do. He said fees need to be reduced and offices need to work more efficiently.

Also, he said the city, Kandiyohi County and other cities or townships should form a one-stop shop for obtaining construction fees and permits.

Ahmann suggested a possible way to free up city inspectors to perform other work. He suggested the council authorize the fire marshal and building inspector to postpone inspections of rental property for a year if the property is well-maintained and has no violations.

"We can certainly look into that,'' said Stevens.

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