Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
There was spirited debate at the Gardner City Council Aug. 21 as councilmembers grappled with what to do about the deteriorating buildings at the Gardner Municipal Airport.
The councilmembers heard presentations from Michael Kramer, public works director, who pleaded with the council to give staff time to complete evaluations and develop options before deciding what to do with the airport.
Kramer outlined what the staff has already done and the next steps needed before a decision can be made.
He said the city had conducted inspections to the buildings at the airport, developed cost estimates, conducted a survey of city residents about the airport and developed an Airport Layout Plan. He said there was still more work to do before the council decides what to do about the airport building.
“Don’t pick the first option. Avoid emotional decisions. Let’s gather as much input as possible, so we have the information we need for the next steps,” he said.
Kramer was however interrupted by Mayor Steve Shute and councilmembers Rich Melton and Lee Moore who said they wanted to hear from representatives of Apex Environmental Services about an inspection the company conducted at the airport.
“We don’t want to hear this as presented by the staff but by Apex,” said Shute.
Melton said the councilmembers have been waiting for 16 months to hear from the corporation, and Kramer should yield the floor for a company representative to explain details about the report.
But Kramer resisted the move saying that councilmembers have in the past wanted to know what the staff have been doing about the airport.
“One of the comments during the last meeting was that nothing has been done, so we wanted to let you know what has been done,” he said.
A company representative told the council that after visual inspections significant amounts of mold were discovered as well as water infiltration that has left the airport building in need of major renovations. The building also has significant roof problems and an inspection by fire personnel revealed fire code violations.
Moore said there’s a potential tenant for the building and asked whether the council could allow the tenant to conduct repairs on the building to bring it up to code.
This suggestion was quickly shot down by Larry Powell, economic development, who said the building lacks an operational bathroom which could only be installed once a sewer system has been built.
“A tenant can repair other things, but the building cannot be leased without an operational restroom, and we cannot have an operational restroom without the sewer system,” he said.
According to Kramer a sewer system is a capital improvement project budgeted for 2019. Randy Gregorsyck , councilmember, wondered why the council doesn’t just give the airport back to the group that ran it until a few years ago.
“It baffles me that we’ve been talking about this for two years. Why don’t we just give it to the guys who kept it going for forty years?” he said.
The council decided to give staff time to develop proposals. An update is expected in two weeks.
In other business the city received the report on a citizen satisfaction survey conducted by ETC Corporation. The survey revealed that the city rated higher than the national and state average with the police department garnering the highest satisfaction rating by residents. Traffic flow was rated lowest.