Airport woe: lightning strike

FAIRMONT – How much damage was caused by a lightning strike and the cost to fix it remains to be seen at Fairmont Municipal Airport.

Over the weekend, lightning struck a sign and blew a hole in the ground, airport manager Lee Steinkamp informed the advisory board Tuesday. Multiple bulbs were blown out, and underground transformers and wiring were damaged

“At this point in time we’re still trying to figure out what all is damaged,” he said.

A similar incident happened at the Ankeny, Iowa, airport when Steinkamp worked there, and he recalled the cost to fix it was about $45,000.

The city has a $10,000 deductible, which the Minnesota Department of Transportation may have funds to help meet, according to Public Works director Troy Nemmers.

“We’re fortunate it wasn’t the runway lights,” Steinkamp said. “We can still get planes in and out at night.”

Also on Tuesday, the board approved plans for an Airport 101 class set for 5:30 p.m. May 13. Bolton & Menk presented the idea, with the intention of educating the City Council, airport board, airport users, county board and others about how the airport functions.

The 90-minute class will cover the airport’s layout, airspace, land use/zoning, regulations, economic impact, funding, future needs and goals, the capital improvement plan and the potential for an industrial park.

The concept of an industrial park near the airport has been discussed on and off over the years. On Tuesday, the board was shown a rough set of plans for such a development.

“Is there a perceived need?” asked Bruce Peters, advisory board member.

Finding out is the first step in the process, according to Ronald Roetzel, senior project manager with Bolton & Menk.

Two options are available to create an industrial park at the site, should there be interest in the project.

If the industrial park is built on airport property, any businesses in the park would have to be aviation-related. That’s one of the stipulations of federal grants given to the airport, which essentially make the airport property of the federal government.

The other option would be a land release – a year-long federal process to get permission to sell some of the airport property for an industrial park.

Nemmers was not aware of any businesses that have expressed interest in an industrial park by the airport. He said the city will not build a park in hopes that industries will move there.

“This can be shown to interested parties,” he said, pointing to the plans presented by Bolton & Menk.

Dennis Turner of Kahler Automation in Fairmont said the Kahlers were initially interested in building near the airport, but the cost of putting in the infrastructure was “a big stumbling block.”

The city’s wastewater system does not extend to the airport, and the water that runs to the site is only a 3-inch line.