WILLMAR — The "new" Willmar Municipal Airport on state Highway 40 isn't actually new anymore and maintenance and repair projects are starting to be needed.

"We are 13 years into this new airport, things are starting to wear out," said Eric Rudningen, airport manager. "Little things start to show up that need attention."

On the maintenance to-do-list this year are a runway crack repair and seal coat project and a complete reconstruction of a portion of the taxiway on the west side of the airport, near the city-owned T-hangars.

"To help that pavement last a little longer," Rudningen said. "This is the first big project on the pavement."

The Federal Aviation Administration has awarded Willmar $900,000 in grant funds to help pay for the $1.008 million project.

"We are very fortunate. These federal projects are funded 90 percent by federal," Rudningen said. "It is a great way to utilize those federal dollars."

The Minnesota Department of Transportation will be putting in another 5 percent toward the project, with the city of Willmar covering the remaining 5 percent, or $48,887.

The airport project was approved by the Willmar City Council and the contract with Duininck Inc. was approved at the Oct. 7 council meeting.

Rudningen is hopeful work can still get going this fall, specifically with the taxiway project. That work will include a complete reconstruction due to pavement condition caused by water drainage and the freeze-thaw cycle.

"It is a product of wet soil," Rudningen said. "We reached a point where the pavement is beyond repair."

While construction is taking place on the taxiway, renters of the T-hangars won't have access. Rudningen said he will be talking to the renters about the project and what they would like to do.

The runway's crack repair and seal coat will most likely happen next spring. Rudningen said that works out well. If new crack and seal coat was put down this fall and didn't have a chance to set properly, there could always be the chance snowplows would just peel it right off the pavement.

It is hoped the runway project will extend the life of the runway another 10 to 15 years, Rudningen said.

There will be runway closures during the project.

"A total of about eight days the runway will be closed for part of the day or most of the day," Rudningen said. He added he'll try to have the runway open for a time in the mornings and evenings to give pilots a chance to get in and out of the airport.

The runway work will not impact LifeLink's ability to respond to emergency calls. Rudningen said the airport will be following the same procedure it does when snow makes the runway impassable. The runway will be closed, but not the airport, which allows the medical helicopters to still operate.

Rudningen is grateful Willmar's project was chosen for the grant funds. Every year the city airport receives about $150,000 in federal airport money.

The larger grant award of $900,000 comes from the FAA's discretionary fund, which are monies not spent on other projects due to lower construction costs or changes in project schedules. The FAA gets its money in part from things like aviation fuel taxes.

"It is paid by the users," Rudningen said.

With the extra grant money, the Willmar Airport project will be completed far sooner than would have been possible if the city had to save up its annual funding allotment.

"It is really a benefit to the community," Rudningen said.