Donations begin to trickle in for F-14 Tomcat project; $1,805 has been contributed so far

WILLMAR -- Contributions are starting to trickle in for demilitarizing and bringing a retired Navy jet fighter for a display at Willmar Municipal Airport.

WILLMAR -- Contributions are starting to trickle in for demilitarizing and bringing a retired Navy jet fighter for a display at Willmar Municipal Airport.

As of Monday, $1,805 had been contributed toward the estimated $52,600 cost of the F-14 Tomcat project. The estimate does not include the cost to construct a pedestal for mounting the aircraft at the airport.

Patrick Curry, a former Willmar Airport Commission member, gave two checks totaling $1,500 to the City Council's Finance Committee Monday evening.

City Administrator Michael Schmit said contributions totaling $305 have been made at City Offices.

The fundraising project is up against a Dec. 5 deadline. That's the date when the city is to take possession of the jet, which has been parked for the past five years at the Naval Air Base in Minneapolis.


Curry has corresponded with authorities during the last several years in an attempt to secure an aircraft for airport display.

Curry said a company in Virginia Beach, Va., has the exclusive contract with the Navy for demilitarizing military aircraft. The process involves removing the engines, the wings and tail, transporting the aircraft to Willmar on a special trailer, and reassembling the wings and tail on the aircraft here.

Curry said he has been seeking donations from businesses. Veterans organizations will also be asked for contributions. Curry said he's seeking assistance from state and federal lawmakers.

Curry pledged to continue fundraising.

Committee member Jim Dokken asked if the city could provide "seed'' money toward the project. Schmit said that decision was a policy decision of the council.

In other business, the committee voted to direct city staff to find money to replace $17,000 taken from the Willmar Design Center's 2006 budget to buy a dilapidated house at 125 Benson Ave. S.E.

The motion to restore the funding was made by Jim Dokken and seconded by committee member Rick Fagerlie.

The house was purchased by the city in September 2005 to get rid of an eyesore located just east of downtown. The house was later burned by the fire department in a training exercise and the site has since been landscaped.


The funding request was made by Design Center President Judy Wright, treasurer John Christianson and project coordinator Beverly Dougherty. They said the Design Center's activities for 2006, including contracting with an architect to prepare a downtown master plan, relied on the $50,000 budget. The amount was funded by the city.

Design Center officials said the $17,000 loss would result in the Design Center shutting down for the remainder of the year.

They said the Design Center was notified after the fact that the money for buying the house had been taken from the Design Center's budget.

Schmit said the City Council decided to take the money for the house purchase from the Design Center's budget. After Dougherty talked to Schmit about the funding situation, she assumed the Design Center had the full $50,000 amount, she told the committee.

Schmit said he recalled telling the council at the time the house purchase was approved that the council would have to deal with a shortfall in the Design Center's budget.

In other business, the committee voted to recommend the council renew the three-year intergovernmental transfer agreement with the Willmar Municipal Utilities. The previous agreement expires on Dec. 31, 2006. The new agreement covers 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Under the agreement, the utilities transfers revenue to the city in an amount equal to 4.8 percent of the utilities' audited net worth, but not to exceed a 4 percent annual increase.

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