Saturday, July 15, 2017

Public hearing on Grantsburg Municipal Airport (KGTG) borrowing set for July 31st

GRANTSBURG—Residents of Grantsburg and others with an interest in the Grantsburg Municipal Airport will have an opportunity to express their thoughts at a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 31 at the Crex Wildlife Education Center Auditorium, located at 102 E. Crex Avenue on the village’s north side.

Specifically, the meeting is about whether to proceed with resurfacing the crumbling asphalt runway. It has cracks an inch or more wide along much of its surface.

At its monthly meeting on Monday evening, the village board voted unanimously to receive public input as it considers whether to proceed with runway reconstruction, as recommended by the village board’s Airport Committee. 

Million dollar price tag

The most recent price estimate for the project came from Matt Messina of the Bureau of Aeronautics in Madison. At a meeting Monday morning with members of the board’s Airport Committee, Messina estimated the price tag for resurfacing the runway, its adjoining apron areas and the street in front of the hangars would be $1.1 or 1.2 million.

While some may find that dollar amount alarming, the plan is to complete the project without any increase in local taxes. The project would receive 95 percent, or somewhere above $1 million of the construction cost, through Wisconsin airport entitlement funds and a Federal Aviation Agency runway grant. The other five percent would come from a local match. 

Covering the local match

Pilots who use the airport told the Airport Committee they will take responsibility to cover the local match, which could total $55-60,000. The pilots told the committee that the hangar owners will set up a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) which will pay the entire local match through an increase in hangar owners’ monthly property rental fees to the village. The pilot's own the hangars, but pay rent to the village which owns the airport land where the hangars are situated.

The hangar owners say they will increase their monthly fees by $30 or “whatever it takes” per hangar per month, which would raise the funds needed for the local match without adding any expense to local taxpayers. 

Funding likely

Asked about the likelihood of securing the funding, Messina said $600,000 in airport entitlements are presently reserved for Grantsburg’s airport. Messina said the balance of the funds would come from the FAA emergency fund, which earmarks money for runway resurfacing as a high priority. If the project is approved, the resurfacing most likely would occur in the spring or summer of 2019.

Every year, Grantsburg’s airport receives $150,000 in entitlement funds, but so far has not accepted the funds because they come with a requirement to operate the airport for 20 more years. Area pilots say a new runway would attract more pilots to house their airplanes in Grantsburg. Presently, they are meeting the FAA requirement of 10 or more airplanes housed in hangars in order to qualify for state and federal operating  funds.

Instead of accepting the funds locally, Grantsburg has exercised its option to forward the funds to the Burnett County Airport at the government center. That airport has used the funds to maintain its runways and access areas.  

Local costs low

Asked what it costs taxpayers annually for the village to operate the airport, Village President Larry Ebersold said the annual hangar fees cover current operating costs.

Pilots who house their airplanes in the airport’s hangars say the airport is valuable to the community for recreation, business and in disaster or emergency situations. They are proud that the airport has one of the few grass runways in this part of the state. The pilots themselves do the runway mowing and fill the gopher holes in the grass runway.

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