The Park Rapids City Council on Dec. 8 adopted the updated airport master plan (AMP) and airport layout plan (ALP) for the municipal airport, also known as Konshok Field.

The council also gave its annual approval to the airport’s capital improvement plan (CIP) and talked about priorities and budgeting for upcoming airport capital projects.

“We’re kind of at a crossroads,” airport business consultant John De Coster with Landrum and Brown, Inc., said in a workshop before the regular council meeting. “In the next 5-10 years, you’ve got a couple of major projects that are going to be going out here. Historically, we’ve always looked at the airport on an annual basis and said, ‘Gee, this is what we need for local share for the capital projects and such,’ but we actually have a bigger obligation that’s going to be coming forward.”

De Coster said the airport commission is looking at expanding the airport to increase its importance to the community and “make it more marketable to the people who fly airplanes.”

Consulting engineer Matt Zitzow with TKDA stressed that the plan approvals required no financial action. “The airport master plan is financially closed out,” he said. “All federal and state reimbursements for the project have been received.” Also, he said, there is no cost to update the CIP.

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Airport master plan

Zitzow reminded the council that the AMP-ALP update has been underway since 2015. “It’s not a small accomplishment,” he said.

He described them as “comprehensive planning documents that take a look at short-, medium- and long-term needs and wants of the airport” and that are used to guide airport development decisions. Also, because many airport projects depend on federal and state funding, the AMP and ALP are “a proving ground for future projects” with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

Zitzow said the AMP is a 417-page document that describes the airport as it is today, its needs and users, and what it will need to continue operating safely and legally.

He described the Airport Layout Plan as 20 pages of graphics, such as maps of the airport and its terminal area.

Capital improvement plan

Zitzow explained that the CIP is a document hosted online by MnDOT, updated at least annually, but that in practice can be adjusted continuously as the airport’s priorities change.

“All of the 130-plus airports in the state have a CIP like this,” he said, calling it a 20-year outlook of airport priorities with estimates of the federal, state and local share of project costs, so that government bodies can “strategically prepare” to achieve these goals.

The CIP does not allocate or encumber funds, he added, and having a project on the CIP does not obligate the city to complete it.

“What it does do, however, is it allows MnDOT and FAA, on an annual basis, to look at your airport and the needs of the entire Minnesota aviation system. The state legislature uses this to understand how much money needs to be appropriated to our state system,” and the FAA also uses it to assess Minnesota’s aviation needs, he said.

Zitzow walked the council through an annotated print-out of the current CIP, highlighting a current project to extend taxilanes in the terminal area and prepare sites for building private hangars and a public T-hangar, currently in the design phase with construction slated for 2021-22.

Five or more years out, he said, the main runway will reach the end of its service life and will need to be replaced. Zitzow said this will be a “big and disruptive” project whose timing depends on when Park Rapids reaches the front of the queue for an FAA discretionary grant.

Also, the public T-hangar could be built with a zero-interest, 20-year loan from MnDOT that would cover 80 percent of the project cost, but that may not become available until about 2026. Park Rapids is on the waiting list for the loan, which MnDOT issues about once a year using funds repaid by other cities, Zitzow said.

Meanwhile, he noted, other “want” projects – as opposed to “needs” – include the purchase of snow removal equipment and runway crack and joint repair, but may be difficult to fund due to limits on how fast the airport can “bank up” FAA entitlement dollars.

Council feedback

Council member Erika Randall challenged the priority the CIP gives to a remodel of the arrival-departure building. She suggested that, as more of a want than a need, it should be moved down a few years and delegated to a task force.

Randall also urged that, starting with next year’s budgeting process, the city should “build a bank” to fund the city share of airport capital projects, rather than expecting liquor store revenues to cover them.

She added that the city needs to be ready when MnDOT offers it that hangar loan.

“We need to be in a position to say we have cash (for the city share),” she said, “because if we say no, we go back to the bottom of the list.

“That’s a want, but it’s also a strategic move, if we’re doing all this work to develop these sites and there’s a need for hangars,” she added – a reminder that the airport could use the rental income from the T-hangars.

Later, during the council’s regular meeting, Randall made separate motions to adopt the AMP-ALP and to approve the airport CIP. Both motions passed unanimously.

“Pound for pound, you have one of the best airports in the state,” Zitzow told the council. “You have a great reputation for the facility that you have, regionally and statewide. It’s really a feather in your hat.”