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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Cost-free airport upgrades reviewed by Orr council

David Colburn
Posted 5/15/24

ORR- Approval of bids for the pavement crack sealing project at the Orr Airport was on the Orr Council’s agenda on Monday, but they ended up getting a full update on airport improvements from …

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Cost-free airport upgrades reviewed by Orr council


ORR- Approval of bids for the pavement crack sealing project at the Orr Airport was on the Orr Council’s agenda on Monday, but they ended up getting a full update on airport improvements from Bollig Engineering’s Aviation Division Lead and Architect Angela Holm.
Of the three bids received for the project, the lowest was submitted by Wisconsin-based Fahrner Asphalt Sealers, who works on pavement maintenance projects in a six-state region. The company’s bid of $89,892 was about $157,000 less than the engineering estimate of $247,000.
“They’re a contractor that we’ve had on our projects multiple times – they have a good reputation and we’re comfortable with them,” Holm said. “We did check – as part of our due diligence, we call that low bidder and ask are you sure you’re comfortable with your bid? Are you really sure? And they said yes, absolutely. We were on the site. We looked at the cracks. We don’t think it’s a $200,000 job.”
While the savings over the original estimate are considerable, they won’t have an impact on the city’s tight budget situation. Holm noted that the project is being done at no cost to the city, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will pay for 90 percent of the cost, with MnDOT and the Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation will split the remaining 10 percent.
After the bid was unanimously approved by the council, Holm moved on to an update for the fuel system replacement project. She said they were “very, very close to complete.”
“They salvaged all the old systems that they could, and to save they transferred in into the new tanks,” Holm said.
The crew working on the project did have to order a new pump that pulls water out of the fuel system, Holm said, and she reported that the new card reader payment system would be up and running within a day. They were also able to salvage 800 gallons of low-lead fuel and 1,400 gallons of jet A fuel.
“Again, this is a really nice project for the city, it’s 100 percent paid by somebody else,” Holm said. “It’ll just be a few weeks before it’s totally done.”
The third project Holm discussed is called a PAPI and REIL replacement project, which deals with runway lighting. PAPI, short for precision approach path indicator, is a system that provides guidance to help a pilot acquire and maintain the correct approach slope for landing. REIL, short for runway end identifier lights, includes the flashing strobe lights on all four corners of the runway that help pilots identify where the runway is. Holm said the project was still in the planning stage, but would also be completely funded by other government sources.
Council member John Jirik asked Holm about procedures involved in disposing of outdated or defunct equipment that was purchased with FAA or MnDOT funds.
“We have a truck that no longer works,” he said, “What are our options with that. Is that something that has to go to them?”
Holm said her understanding is that the agencies typically want their share of the money if equipment is sold, in proportion to the amount of money they put in.
“So if you sell it for $100, $90 has to go to the FAA and 10 percent or five percent to the state,” she said.
Holm volunteered to review an equipment list if the city would provide one to determine what funding sources were used and what parameters might apply to disposing of the property.
Upcoming projects mentioned by Holm included replacement of the outdated weather monitoring system, show removal equipment, and construction of new hangars. There is an annual allotment of federal dollars coming in that may support some of these projects.
In other business, the council:
• Approved the renewal of short-term rentals for Go Big Investments/Skoglund Investments, with the understanding that the approval is not transferrable to new owners if the property is sold.
• Approved the renewal of the labor agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 49.
• Approved an agreement with Voyageurs National Park to allow Voyageur Trail Society to do snowmobile trail grooming.
• Approved a resolution to apply to and accept funds from the Blandin Foundation for a fishing pier and the city park beach. The city could receive up to $150,000.
• Reviewed a matured CD from RBC Investment and deferred action to the next council meeting.
• Approved advertising for part-time summer help at the Tourist Information Center.
• Approved the specifications for a new ambulance and gave permission for ambulance director Donna Hoffer to seek bids. The ambulance would be paid for out of ambulance service funds, and is expected to take almost two years to be delivered.
• Discussed a request from maintenance supervisor Paul Koch to carry over unused vacation time. That led to a broader discussion of the city’s use-it-or-lose-it policy and how exceptions to that are granted. Council members expressed interest in doing a payout of $7,721 for Koch’s accrued time rather than carry it over, and tabled action on the matter to the next meeting.
• Received two anonymous donations to the ambulance service of $200 each.