Despite best efforts to find solutions to problems, frustrations with airport project voiced

WILLMAR -- A council member's comment about writing a book on avoiding mistakes in airport construction provided a little comic relief to serious frustrations about the city's airport project.

WILLMAR -- A council member's comment about writing a book on avoiding mistakes in airport construction provided a little comic relief to serious frustrations about the city's airport project.

"We're all going to write a book together on how not to make some of these mistakes on building an airport,'' joked Willmar City Council member Doug Reese. "We'll possibly pass it on to others as they construct airports.''

Those problems include the need to increase the width of taxi lanes along hangars to provide maneuvering room for larger aircraft and installation of tile lines to drain nuisance rain water away from the hangar area.

Airport Commission Chairman Arnie Plowman told the council Monday night the list of problems or deficiencies sometimes seems to be growing instead of shrinking. From the Airport Commission's perspective, most of these problems should have been addressed in the engineering phase of the project, he said.

"I'm sure you're as equally frustrated by that as we are. Staff has been very helpful to us in finding solutions to many of these problems -- problems that they should never have had to look for solutions to,'' Plowman said.


"What is frustrating to us is early on during the project when we began to notice things that we thought needed redress, we many times would find ourselves in a position where the engineering company was asking for additional funds to cover engineering to readdress some situations that weren't correct in the first place,'' he said.

"So you see there was a disincentive to scrutinize some aspects of the engineering. I think because of that, some things slipped by that probably shouldn't have early on,'' said Plowman.

"There's a lot of items I think that the city is going to be looking to remedy in the future. Obviously there is substantial cost involved. City staff has been very responsive in helping address some of these issues to try and get the project completed as fast as possible,'' he said.

"We have quite a group of hanger owners out there who are either building hangars or moving hangars from the old airport, and everybody's itching to get the project done and fully utilized. That's what our goal is,'' he said.

Reese, chairman of the council's Public Works/Safety Committee, reassured Plowman that the committee shared those concerns.

"We as a committee expressed our frustration very similar to what you're talking about,'' said Reese.

City Administrator Michael Schmit agreed the city has some serious issues with the design-phase preparation and engineering.

"Those are things that we're going to have to deal with with the consultant at some point in time. We have a number of issues out there and we're working very hard to make sure we get everything in place before the end of the construction season as best we can,'' said Schmit.


"It seems to me that recognizing we have these issues now is not the time to be creating new problems and issues that we all pretty much know in the back of our minds we're going to have to deal with it at some point,'' he said.

"We're just trying to maintain a positive attitude and approach to the completion of the project,'' Schmit said.

The council acted on the following Public Works/Safety Committee recommendations on airport-related items:

- Approved a $40,000 change order to a 2004 paving contract with Duininck Bros. Inc. of Prinsburg to widen by five feet the 20-foot-wide taxi lane at two hangar locations to accommodate two large aircraft. Additional widening will be done next year as funds are available.

- Denied a request from B & H Petroleum Company to extend the date for completing the aviation fuel system from Sept. 17 to Oct. 20. The city has been providing fuel from a truck for monthly rental fee of $3,000. "I suspect that the cost of doing so would be included in our discussions with the company when we talk about any penalties that might be imposed,'' said Schmit.

- Approved a change order and final payment of $27,499 to Commerford Gravel of Danvers for additional soil correction required to excavate a hangar site. The site was not originally planned for hangar space, but was later required because of space needs. The original contract was well below the engineer's estimate. However, after work began, it was determined that deeper excavation was required to remove unstable soil, and work was continued to finish the project before inclement weather occurred.

- Received three price quotes and approved the low quote from Quam Construction of Willmar to install drainage tile at a cost of $5.25 per lineal foot to relieve nuisance water from recent rain storms standing near the hangar group. The cost will be paid from the Public Works operating budget.

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