By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer
Rather than fight the Federal Aviation Administration for a pond, the Concordia city commission agreed to move forward with engineering on a dry dam in the south flood control area Wednesday night.
At a study session last week, City Manager Larry Uri informed commissioners that the FAA had lodged an objection to the city's plan to have a permanent body of water behind what will be the 21st Street dam. The FAA has a policy strongly against a body of water within 5,000 feet of an airport because it would be a hazardous wildlife attractant.
On a 4-1 vote last night, with Lyle Pounds casting the dissenting vote, the commission approved moving forward with a contract amendment with KLA Environmental Services to modify the dam design to provide for no permanent water storage.
Uri said he had met with FAA representatives earlier in the year and told them a pond was an unavoidable necessity to the construction of the dam. But, then he talked to the KLA engineers and discovered the dam could be built with no permanent body of water at no additional expense to the city.
Uri told commissioners last night that the Army Corps of Engineers must issue the permit to build the dam. Because the FAA has lodged an objection to the project, the Corps won't issue a permit until the situation is resolved. The feedback he has received from the Corps, Uri said, is that if the city moves forward with a dry dam, it will issue the needed permits.
"My recommendation is that we proceed with this engineering and build the dam, remembering that our first priority is flood control," Uri said. "But, at the same time, I'm not recommending we entirely forget about the possibility of a pond."
Uri recommended moving forward with the new engineering, work on getting the dam built, then approach the FAA to ask for a smaller body of water. Uri also said he could set up a meeting with FAA representatives and commissioners, but he didn't think they would have much luck.
"I'm afraid that if we were to pursue this matter to a conclusion with the FAA before building the dam, it would probably be a couple years and we would probably have the same experience the college did with its wind turbines," he said. "I am loath to postpone building the dam, but I'm afraid we could get on another tangent like we did with the Corps of Engineers where five years later, we're back where we started and the price has doubled."
Pounds said he would rather table the issue for a couple weeks so commissioners could meet with the FAA.
"I'm not quite willing to cave yet without one more meeting," Pounds said. "It's been going on 15 years - two more weeks, what the heck?"
Commissioner Charles Johnson said he had never been in favor of a permanent body of water in the flood control area, nor was he in favor of a smaller pond.
"I think you're going to have more problems than you imagined (with a pond), and even more problems with a smaller body of water," he said.
Christy Hasch said she is also disappointed that the pond is no longer a possibility.
"But I also think we're unlikely to change the minds of the FAA," Hasch said. "I am really concerned about the safety of those homes on the other side of that dam. I think we have to keep in mind that that's the priority."
Mayor Tim Parker said he would rather move forward with building a dry dam to keep the project on track for construction next year.
"The first thing here is flood control. Anything else is just an extra benefit," he said. "I think we just need to go ahead and get this passed to keep each step going."
At the beginning of the meeting, Uri recognized several employees for years of service. Raymond Mendenhall was recognized for 40 years of service to the city in various departments. Ric Fredrickson was honored for 15 years in the Police Department. Tim Halfhide was recognized for 10 years employment in the Water Department, and Jared LeDuc for 10 years at the Sports Complex.
The commission also approved assessing costs for curb and gutter projects that were completed earlier this year. They are: 803 West 5th, $1,605; 302 East 12th, $2,665; 720 Cedar, $1,239; 307 West 9th, $806; 527 West 6th, $754; and 115 West 13th, $546.
The commission also agreed to spend $5,000 for an employee health fair to be conducted on Dec. 3. Cloud County Health Center will conduct the wellness checks, which will include lab work, for a total of $3,000. The city will also offer each employee who participates a $40 gift card.
An agreement was entered into with the Kyle Railroad for the installation of crossing signals at 4th and Olive. The city will be responsible for installing the advanced warning signs and federal funds will pay for the signals.
The commission adjourned to a study session to discuss an engineer contract for the wastewater treatments plant, a sewer project on 13th Street and water billing.