The Fergus Falls City Council’s well-intentioned extension of two weeks for the Airport Advisory Committee (AAC) to make a recommendation contrary to the one they unanimously approved Jan. 25 led to some drama Tuesday night at City Hall.
Fergus Falls Mayor Ben Schierer, who was strongly in favor of giving the AAC an extra two weeks, said he was “disappointed with some people with the way they have behaved at this time” before inviting comments by council members.
Aviation Consultant Landrum & Brown had recommended Alexandria Aviation in January but after an interview process with the majority of the qualified candidates the AAC, chaired by Andrew Yaggie, decided that Sky Crew Services would be a better fit. A motion by Councilman Anthony Hicks to approve the AAC’s recommendation of Sky Crew Services failed by a 5-2 vote.
A motion by Councilman Brent Thompson to approve Landrum & Brown’s recommendation of Alexandria Aviation also failed by a 5-2 vote.
With the two leading candidates both on the canvas, Councilwoman Krista Hagberg stepped in to recommend tabling the decision to give the council more time to hammer out a new process in picking an airport manager. Councilman Justin Arneson proposed a committee be formed from City Council members, city staff members and perhaps a professional pilot. The group’s mission would be to nail down the exact expectations the council expects from the person or group who will run the Fergus Falls Municipal Airport on a two-year contract. Hagberg’s motion passed by a 6-1 vote.
Yaggie, chairman of the City Council’s AAC, said last week the group approved Alexandria Aviation based on consultant John Decoster’s recommendation. Questions were put to the four qualified applicants and Alexandria Aviation, with 31 years of experience in running airport operations and fixed base operator experience, was a clear choice.
Yet even after the Jan. 25 vote in favor of Alexandria Aviation, some members of the committee had doubts about the process. They wanted the extension to give them time to interview the applicants face to face. With community members also present during the interviews, the committee’s recommendation after their Feb. 8 meeting was Sky Crew Services, a group run by two local men, Stacy Stock and Andrew Habraken.
Thompson pointed out the two-year process which led to the posting of the airport manager/FBO position, was one in which the AAC participated.
“The reason why we went with this third party (Landrum & Brown) was that they knew something like this was going to happen and that was exactly what happened,” Thompson said. “When it comes down to the interview process I felt it was completely unprofessional and unfair.”
Councilman Tom Rufer commented that he had heard from a lot of people who “wanted to keep it local” but added that Decoster might have asked questions that were outside of what the airport committee was expecting and prepared for.
Thompson said he felt the council made a large mistake in allowing the committee extra time to make their recommendation.
Hicks said he was in favor of the process being reviewed but did not like the idea of ‘the can being kicked down the road.” Hicks said it was the council’s duty to make the decision. The council also gave approval to light industrial uses in the B-5 and B-6 zones of the city. Light industrial uses include a category of businesses that include limited intensity levels of manufacturing and assembly activities from previously prepared or refined materials. It can include but is not limited to food processing, contractors, textiles, wood products, tool and die, printing pharmaceuticals, machinery manufacturing and assembled, research and development and laboratories.
A motion directing city attorney Rolf Nycklemoe to draft amendments to Ordinance 61, regarding the code of ethics for council members, was approved. The present ordinance has been in effect since 2008.
The council approved a resolution to extend the purchase agreement with Rivers Edge Investments LLC for the city-owned parking lot at the intersection of East Lincoln and North Cascade avenues to Dec. 1, 2021, but rejected the investment group’s request for an extension until June 30, 2022.
The council also approved a resolution opposing Minnesota’s adopting California’s clean-car initiative.
Reports from staff members saw the council approving a resolution permitting Otter Tail Power to carry out Phase II of their street lightning project in 2021. The council was also in favor of allowing public works to carry on the city’s present snow removal policy. Chief of Public Safety Kile Bergren gave the council an update on the coyote problem which has plagued the community in recent weeks. Bergren pointed out the coyotes have not harmed any city residents but recommended they keep their pets leashed. He added that he expects the coyote problem to subside in time.
Consent agenda items approved included:
• A resolution authorizing library director Gail Hedstrom to apply for a $2,500 grant from West Central Initiative’s Donor Advised Fund for the summer tutoring extra reading at the library program. The total cost of the project is $2,500.
• A resolution of support for the Otter Tail County Local Roads Improvement Program (LRIP) funding application for the Fir and Friberg Avenue intersection improvement. According to city engineer Brian Yavarow the county and the city will be applying for the Rural Road Safety Account that funds capital safety improvement projects on county state aid highways (CSAH) to reduce traffic crashes, death, injuries and property damage. The maximum request for a single agency is nearly $1.3 million. Applications are due March 3. The city’s cost is proposed to be funded through municipal state aid allocations.
• A $500 donation from CHS for fire department rescue equipment.
• A $10,000 donation from the Dorothy and Gene Porter Family Fund for the library.