By Per Peterson
The Tracy City Council on Monday approved a motion to close one of the grass runways and reconstruct an apron at the Tracy Municipal Airport.
The move to close a runway is being pushed by the Federal Aviation Administration to enhance safety at the airport, which the FAA has deemed non-compliant.
It will also clear the way to develop hangars and construct new buildings there.
The removal of runway 0624 would “create the most beneficial contiguous land area,” said Bollig Inc. Project Manager Angela Holm. “We’ve been working on some scenarios for hangar development for the newly-expanded area. Nothing, Holm said, is set in stone — “it’s just an idea. It’s just to show what could be done. We’re certainly open to comments and concerns.”
The council opened the issue for public comment, of which there was none. With that, it moved to close Runway 624, which, Holm said is in “extremely poor condition” and creates line-of-sight issues.
Holm also highlighted development that could possibly be seen over the next 20 to 30 years. She said in the future, there could be room for as many as 18 owners or renters who would like to base at the airport. Reconfiguration today would also open the door for a medi-vac facility.
“It would happen in stages,” Holm said. “As demands warrant, we could build more hangars. But it’s not really possible until you abandon a runway.”
Reconstruction at the airport will begin this summer.
Two of the three runways at the airport are grass. Holm said there is nothing wrong with the other grass runway, other than a couple of obstructions that are already being worked on. The apron needs to be adjusted to adhere to FAA rules. Holm said the FAA would not finance any additional work until the apron is fixed.
Councilwoman Jeri Schons asked if the project would interfere with the annual Box Car Day’s Fly-in Breakfast over Labor Day weekend. Work on the apron wouldn’t begin until after Labor Day.
Bids for the project will go out soon.
The reconfiguration of the airport would allow someone to build their own hangar, under the FAA’s guidelines, sometime in 2020.
Power poles at the airport will also have to be moved, and that is being worked into the project.
The council approved a pair of resolutions to award the sale of bonds. The Series A bond of $8,395,000 million is a temporary bond for various improvements to water, sanitary, and storm sewer utility systems in Tracy. The city has obtained financing from the USDA in an amount not to exceed $8,399,000 for the third phase of the project. The B bond amount is $5,365,000. This is a long-term bond.
Bids for the estimated $6.7 million phase 3A infrastructure improvements were opened last Thursday with Duininck, Inc. coming in with the low bid out of three contractors at $5,707,694.13. The engineer’s estimate, based on average bid prices for Phase 1, plus another 5% to 10%, was $5.1 million.
ISG Group Engineer Chris Larson said the driving factor behind the higher-than-estimated bid was the higher prices of concrete items like curb and gutter, concrete pipe and manholes.
Work on Tracy streets will likely begin in July, Larson said. The construction will be done in sections. Any streets that are ripped up must be replaced and ready for traffic before winter. The exact plan is not yet finalized.
The council approved a motion to accept the $5,707,694.13 contract, contingent on approval from Rural Development.
Ambuehl said the “radio read” water meter transition is going well. He said there were a couple holdouts, including one who refused to change, despite the $500 fine.
The Public Works Department has been installing new water meters for more than 10 years; it allows a city employee to read the meters remotely. The newer-style meters are touted as being more accurate than old units, save labor for city staff, and can help detect leaks in the system.
“We’ll get to the point where they’re all replaced, and anybody that’s not willing to do it, for whatever reason, we’ll shut that water off. If they’re not using water, then that’s fine, because once the water’s shut off we won’t have to worry about it.”
Daniels said it would be possible to work with residents and possibly install a new meter on a weekend. He said the time it takes to change out a meter varies.
“People have been very accommodating,” Ambuehl said.
Peterson said he has received some negative feedback from residents who felt “pushed” to make the change and that a softer reminder would’ve been more appropriate.
“I heard the word ‘aggressive,’ and I’ll admit, it was (done) purposely,” said Ambuehl. “The letters have been going out since 2016, they’ve been on the bottom of water bills.”
There is no cost for the new meters.
Tamara Schons, manager at the Tracy Liquor Store, reported that sales for March 2019 were $50,648.46, which is up more than $5,100 from 2018. She also noted a Wine 101 seminar to be held at The Caboose on May 8.
Tracy Police Chief Jason Lichty reported that neither of the two candidates who were applying for two positions on the police force would be a good fit for Tracy.
“We’re going to be starting over” with the process, he said.
Schons said she appreciated how the Police Commission isn’t simply hiring someone just for the sake of hiring to fill open spots.
Lichty’s report also indicated he will schedule another pigeon shoot in the near future, as he has been receiving more complaints about them downtown. He also plans on starting the annual nuisance ordinance push starting the first week of May.
EDA Coordinator Jeff Carpenter said the recent Broadacres open house was attended by more than 50 people and said he believes by the end of the year, the city will have three town homes constructed, which is essentially six new standing houses.
“We are looking at a goal of getting to 10 per year,” he said.
Public Works Director Shane Daniels’ report indicated that interior demolition at the new liquor store site is at about 80% on walls and ceilings. The floor will be worked on last, and then the project will move into the rebuilding stages.
Daniels reported that there was a water main break on 4th St. East on Monday. He said ground shifting likely had something to do with it.
Val Quist reported that at the April Library Board meeting, Trudy Williams was elected as the new president of the board, succeeding Peggi Peterson, who had served nine years on the board (state statute limits Library Board members to three three-year terms). Vice president is Joan Ziemke and Secretary is Sandy Stobb. The board also welcomed new member Colleen Schiller.
Quist said the Plum Creek online card catalog was down for two days due to the storm. The server is located in Worthington, and rolling blackouts required the server to be shut down. The library was closed on Thursday, and on Friday library staff wrote down checkouts/check-ins for customers. No fines were charged for those two days, and by that Saturday the system was back up and we were able to enter everything into accounts.
Quist said there were 1,317 checkouts, 329 renewals and 73 digital accounts for a total March circulation of 1,719. That is up by 120 from a year ago.
The council approved a resolution waving special assessments for Parcel 31-104298-0, located at 173 9th St. The assessment was placed against the property for taxes payable in 2018 for mowing the lawn in 2017. Jody Anderson, who lives adjacent to the property, mowed the grass and knocked down some brush at her own expense. She intends to purchase the lot from the current owner and tear down the dilapidated home at her expense. She requested the city waive the special assessment fees in the amount of $962.74 so she can move ahead with the transfer.
A gambling permit application was approved, with no waiting period, for this summer’s Southwest Hero’s Run. The event, which includes a raffle, will take place July 18 at Bonnie & Clyde’s.