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Editorial: City must complete airport parcel sale

The city of Willmar's efforts to obtain the federal release of the former municipal airport land and complete a subsequent land sale with a valid purchase agreement have been delayed.

The delay is due in part to continuing efforts by some, including City Councilman Jim Dokken and Willmar military collector Jonathan Lindstrand, to bring the terminal's historic significance to the attention of state and federal officials. It is almost as if they hope that historic preservation efforts may derail the terminal site sale and then somehow secure the terminal site for a possible military museum.

Unfortunately, these efforts behind the scenes with state and federal officials has now delayed the redevelopment plan of the 700-acre old airport, is holding up the first land sale of 4.5 acres for a total of $282,000 and could increase the city's old airport redevelopment costs over time.

In addition, these same efforts have indirectly resulted in the 68-year-old terminal building being designated "historically significant" and thus eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Now the city of Willmar likely must spend nearly $50,000 to hire a third-party historical management entity to protect the airport terminal building and to complete the building's listing for the National Register.

Granted, the terminal building's historical significance is important and will now need to be addressed and maintained by the city or any future owner. Thus, the historical significance will be preserved through the use of a historical easement specifying any preservation efforts.

However, this delay is also delaying expansion efforts of a local business, Bergh's Fabricating. This company has had a binding purchase agreement with the city for the terminal site.

Any effort by Councilman Dokken and others to indirectly or intentionally interfere with the Bergh's purchase agreement could put the city at financial risk. In addition, it would be unfortunate to see a Willmar city Council Member interfere with a local business expansion effort.

While we think a possible local veteran museum is an admirable effort, museum supporters are premature in targeting the terminal building and delaying the old airport development. The group has not developed a museum plan, has not completed any visitor estimate and has not developed an adequate financing plan or source.

There is a time and place for this military museum. The old airport terminal building is not the right location when an adequate sale agreement is in already place.

The fact remains that the terminal site sale would generate $282,000 for the city.

The militarymuseum supporters should quit interferring on the terminal site sale and let the current sale process be complete. Their efforts have only increased city costs about $50,000 so far and delayed a valuable land sale income opportunity.

The city should complete the appropriate preservation easement requirements for the terminal building. Then the city can obtain the federal release on the old airport acreage and complete the terminal site sale.