City calls for bids to lease ag land at Alexandria Airport
The city has been leasing about 200 acres of farmland for the last 10 years, receiving $51,600.
ALEXANDRIA – It may seem strange to connect airport and agriculture in the same sentence but the Alexandria City Council did that at its Monday meeting, March 13.
It authorized Alexandria Airport Manager Kreg Anderson to seek bids to lease land at the airport that’s being used for agricultural purposes.
The city has been leasing about 200 acres of farmland to Joshua Zeithamer for the last 10 years, receiving $51,600 over that period of time. The lease, which expired this past December, included the establishment of native grasses on the leased land to help reduce the problem of geese and other bird activity at the airport.
The new lease will be bid out for a five-year term, with the option to extend it another five years after that. The idea behind the shorter lease is to provide the Airport Commission and city a chance to evaluate if the existing lease is the best use of the airport acreage, according to Anderson.
“Growing trends at airports show airport owners are branching out from the traditional leased farmland to other avenues of leases, such as solar panels and other energy related equipment,” Anderson said in a memo to the council.
The lease agreement says that the leased land must be used for agricultural purposes only. Bidders must agree to till and plant only small grains – not corn or sunflowers. They may also use it for hay.
Bidders will input their lease rates for the land for both the initial and subsequent five-year terms. Anderson will come back to the council with a recommendation on which bidder to accept.
Council members decided to allow native grasses at the airport 10 years ago when Todd Roth, the airport manager at the time, said his research showed that geese will avoid the long grass, fearing that predators will be lurking there.
At that time, geese were gathering in large numbers on the airport's cropland and the city wasn’t allowed to go after them because it would damage the crops, Roth said.
The number of geese ranged from the hundreds to the thousands at one time. They typically landed on the north side of a runway, just south of Lake Winona. They occasionally wandered onto the runways and taxiways and created a significant safety hazard to aircraft operations in the air and on the ground.
"Collision with geese and ingestion of geese into engines and other parts of the aircraft can have catastrophic consequences," the airport commission noted in a 2012 letter to the council.
Following are other items from the March 13 meeting that were not included in other council coverage.
Passenger jet service at the airport?
During the public comment period, Alexandria resident Alan Roebke urged the council to widen an airport runway by 150 feet to provide passenger jet service. He said Alexandria needs to catch up with cities that are providing passenger service, such as Brainerd and Bemidji. "It's time to get the airport updated," he said.
Roebke also said that he wants to be appointed by the city to talk with an engineering firm and the Federal Aviation Administration about the airport's future.
Public works repairs plow
The public works department had to replace an engine in a plow truck on short notice, according to City Administrator Marty Schultz.
The cost of the repair was $54,884. Schultz said this will likely lead to the department’s equipment repair and maintenance budget going over by the end of the year.
The cost of a new truck is more than $220,000. The vehicle that needed repair is 10 years old with at least 10 years of useful life left, Schultz said.
Travel request approved
The council approved an out-of-state travel request from Mat Hennen, operations lead at the Runestone Community Center.
In his role as a past president of the Minnesota Ice Arena Managers Association, Hennen was asked to attend the North American Rink Conference and Expo in Buffalo, New York from June 13-15.
Hennen told the council that he would represent the city and Minnesota about issues that are talked about at the conference, such as the push to allow only electric machines at ice arenas by 2025.
The total cost of attending the conference is estimated to be $5,300, with $2,700 of the total coming from the managers association.
Hennen said he would report back to the council about the conference.