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Port district woes


Last updated 1/2/2013 at 8:52am

The bad news came in waves last Thursday for port district commissioners.

First, their hope that they could secure grant funding to put in an RV park at Banks Lake Golf Course to help it pay its bills faltered.

Second, airport Manager Bob Babler put commissioners on the spot about an outdated and poorly performing snow plow.

And to top the evening off, longtime Secretary/Treasurer Kary Byam resigned.

The port district is trying to find a way to keep the 18-hole Banks Lake Golf Course open again this year. But it will have to find a different operational formula to do so. Last year after the operator of the course walked away, commissioners held a public meeting for golf enthusiasts and pledged to keep the course open.

The port did, but had to sink in over $100,000 of its money to do so, making necessary repairs to greens and fairways, and reducing membership fees to keep interest in the course alive.

Well, they won’t do that this year. The port’s coffers are nearly empty, and the financial report last Thursday caused Chairman Orville Scharbach to wince.

Commissioners had hoped to get a grant from Grant County to build a proposed 48-pad RV park. But their own feasibility study came back showing that the entire project would cost about $1.75 million.

Commissioners then pared the project down, opting for just over 20 pads, but completing the infrastructure for the rest, and delaying construction of a shower building until later. That came to about $840,000, and commissioners had high hopes that some way they could find the money.

The best they got from the county’s advisory group was a tip on a place where some grant money might be found.

Scharbach stated that the port district would make an operator for the golf course a pretty good deal. “We would lease it pretty cheap,” he stated.

Commissioners had hoped that the project could be done in time for a new revenue stream in 2013, but that now seems unlikely.

The bad news came in waves and commissioners didn’t even discuss how they planned to keep the course open this year. They had hoped to open the course using volunteer labor, and that still seemed a possibility.

“Our volunteers were very good last year and I expect them to be again this year,” Scharbach stated.

Airport Manager Babler has been fighting the dump truck/snow plow and told commissioners that some of the gears are out and the truck “growls.” Babler asked for some direction.

“Do you want to close the airport when it snows, or hire someone to plow it if I can’t get the truck to run?” Babler asked.

The truck was worked on earlier in the season but the same problem persists. The port hopes to get a replacement truck but needs to have funds available to pay the 5-percent portion of the purchase price. The remainder will be paid by the Federal Aviation Administration.

With diminishing port funds, having the matching funds when needed was a concern the airport manager expressed.

Commissioners told him to use the truck, and if it broke down on the runway, the port would arrange to pull it off the runway and then solve the problem.

Closing the airport because of snow, wasn’t an option, commissioners stated.

Then Byam dropped his bombshell. He has been handling the details of the port since 1987 and has seen a good number of commissioners come and go. He handles all the detail of the airport and golf course operation and deals with different state and federal agencies.

“It has turned into a near full time job,” he told commissioners.


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