Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Gardner city council had a work session at 6 p.m., prior to the regularly scheduled council meeting at 7 p.m.Qpril 2, 2018.
Matt Wolff, senior management analyst, gave a presentation on Gardner’s 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
The city plans to install smart water and electric meters in coming years, with a preliminary cost estimate of $3 million. Wolff said that first a study must be done to plan the best way to implement a replacement program.
Two major projects are slated for 2021-2022 – the US 56 and I-35 interchange and the Gardner Road Bridge.
“Those two projects alone are about 35 million dollars,” said Wolff.
Other major road works in the five year plan are:
improvements on Waverly from Madison to 175th in 2019;
Moonlight Road rehab in 2021;
Center Street rehab from Main to 167th; and
improvements to sidewalks on Center Street in 2022.
Future sewer improvements include two relief line projects and two new lift stations – Nike Lift Station and East Lift Station.
The item that generated the most council discussion after the presentation was the poor condition of the facilities at the Gardner Municipal Airport.
Wolff noted that the septic system had failed, and the location was not suitable for septic tank replacement. Staff found additional issues.
“We did a courtesy inspection of the terminal building, and it was discovered that there’s significant deficiencies there as well. Electrical, structural, fire hazards, insulation, access, ADA compliance and also active water intrusion, significant water damage and spore growth,” he said.
He said the staff conclusion was that the vacant part of the building should remain closed. It would cost more to repair the existing building than construct a new one.
The CIP project #AP2301, Terminal Building and FBO Hangar Replacement is slated for 2023 with a placeholder cost estimate of $499,000.
Council members wanted to move that date up and were not content to wait until 2023 to get some type of bathroom facility operating out there.
“The airport is an existing city asset that is failing. Miserably. And the buildings are uninhabitable. That doesn’t sit well with me. We shouldn’t have any buildings in our charge that are in that state,” said Lee Moore, council president.
Moore noted that the city had taken responsibility for the airport in 2016 and that the problems were not due to city or staff neglect.
“This is what we inherited and this is what we’ve got to roll with,” said Moore. “The problem is, we own it now, and we can’t let it fail and fall further into disrepair.”
There was consensus from the rest of council. The problem is funding.
It was said that GMA hangar rental fees were lower than elsewhere, and raising rates was discussed.
Steve Shute, mayor, said rates couldn’t be raised enough to cover this expense and it would have to be partially paid for by the city.
Mark Baldwin, council member, said, “The sewer, it’s something we need to maintain. We have the manpower and infrastructure to do so. That’s on us. Improvements to the terminal, that’s maybe a little on us, but I’m going to look more towards private industries and users of those terminals, those fees to help us with cost offset.”
Council appears to favor finding a third party partner to manage the airport facilities.
Steve Shute, mayor, said it would be nice to find someone qualified and have an arrangement something like the city is working on with GreatLife on the Gardner Golf Course