Federal and state transportation employees continue to work on a plan for moving Federal Aviation Administration antennas at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.
Bob O'Brien, interim airport manager, told the Airport Commission Friday officials from both FAA and the Minnesota Department of Transportation were hoping to have a relocation plan put together before Friday's meeting but were unable to meet the deadline.
"They've been working earnestly, very, very hard, lots of hours put in," O'Brien said.
Bob Milton, manager of aviation operations at MnDOT, told the commission he didn't have anything too "earth-shattering" to share with them. He did note the warm, sunny weather Friday made it a good day to come to Brainerd to provide a brief update, however.
At the March 17 commission meeting, the commission directed the airport's engineers at Mead & Hunt to start the project with the FAA immediately, which they did, Milton said. The FAA wanted a little more information, he said, and the airport was able to accommodate those requests.
Milton was hoping the FAA would have the rough order of magnitude cost, or ROM estimate, available for him by the Friday meeting, but they were unable to provide him with the figure.
"They are indeed working on that," Milton said.
FAA officials indicated their preference would be to move the antennas and transmitters to another part of the airport far away from the business activity, Milton said. It would be more costly, he said, but would help ensure someone wouldn't build something next to the newly moved antennas.
"I'm not sure what alternate sites they've got, but if it were me, I'd say...someplace away from all the other buildings," Milton said. "Some place where you can get a good signal out."
It's pretty rare to move FAA antennas at an airport, Milton said, and usually it's because a runway was shifted or something to that effect. It's rare for antennas to be moved for economic expansion reasons, he said, and it's only the third time he's seen antennas moved.
The costs for moving the antennas will be borne mostly by the airport, Milton said. The FAA seldom brings much funding to the table, he said, and he admitted he's not an expert in how MnDOT funding is allocated. But it's possible Steve Wright, incoming airport manager, would be able to work with the FAA and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., to secure federal funding for the project.
In other business, the commission approved a motion to write a letter thanking O'Brien for serving as interim airport manager and conducting the search which resulted in Wright's hiring. It was O'Brien's last commission meeting as manager, as Wright takes over on May 2.
"As you walked us through this opening for the manager, it was masterful," commission member Rachel Reabe Nystrom said.
O'Brien thanked the commission members for their kinds words and told them he would be available by phone if Wright had any questions or concerns after he took over.
"Any information I have about this, I'm glad to bring him up to speed," O'Brien said.
O'Brien also revealed he had learned something about Minnesota during his short time in Brainerd.
"How do I say this right now? Is it the steak raffle?" O'Brien said. "Oh, meat raffle. ... I had never seen a meat raffle before."
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