Anticipation for a major project at the airport in Owatonna has been building for the last several months, but a recent development is at last bringing all the pieces together.

Owatonna Degner Regional Airport

The long awaited airport project that has been in discussion for more than a year will include a new 10-unit T-hanger and taxi-lane. (File photo/southernminn.com)

After a few setbacks, the T-Hangar and taxi-lane project for the Degner Regional Airport will finally break ground in the coming weeks. The bid for the hangar and taxi-lane project was initially approved at the May 4 meeting, but due to delays in receiving the proper funding, the project had to be discussed once again at the recent Owatonna City Council meeting.

Airport leaders have had hopes of building a fourth hangar, as all of the existing hangars were full, hence the need for expansion.

There are currently three 10-unit hangar buildings. Last summer, when the project was first discussed on the city level after they were granted federal dollars to go toward the airport, Airport Manager Dave Beaver said the need was crucial.

“We anticipate the need for more [storage] by the time we build another hangar; we do have a number of people who have inquired about hangers and are on a waiting list,” said Beaver. “This project has been identified in our airport master plan as a need we were anticipating, so we are following through with that approved planning guidance.”

Last summer, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that $800 million in airport safety and infrastructure grants would be awarded to facilities in 46 states, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Marshall Islands. Owatonna’s airport was included in the list of recipients, being awarded $272,733 for construction, modification, improvement or rehabilitation of a hangar.

The project plan includes building an additional 10-unit T-Hangar and an access taxi-lane. The grant offer is for $1.6 million for costs pertaining to engineering, construction and administration — most of which is supplied by the federal grants.

Owatonna Airport

Funding issues have delayed the onset of building a new 10-unit hangar and taxi lane at the Owatonna airport. After months of waiting for a federal grant to come through, officials are happy to announce the commencement of the project in coming weeks. (File photo/southernminn.com)

“We want to increase capacity to meet the demand,” said Beaver. “We haven’t built a new building since 2005. Hangar space all around the state has become limited, and many local airports are adding additional hangar space.”

The hiccup for the city was that the FAA only allocates $150,000 a year. Any airport can hold the funds for up to four years, but that still wouldn’t come close to covering the full cost of the project.

Luckily, airport officials have been able to connect with other airports in Minnesota, which have received the same funding but are not going to use it. They have been able to acquire eight years’ worth of the $150,000 allocations through the Airport Improvement Program, which allows municipalities to transfer such funds to another city in need.

Because it has taken so long to acquire the proper funds and grants, Community Development Director Troy Klecker told the City Council last week that the window for locking in the prices of the original bid has passed. Airport officials are now planning to meet with the contractor who was awarded the bid this spring to discuss modifications to the original plan.

Klecker assured the council during the meeting that all the materials needed will still be the same, however, they will work with a different supplier than in the original bid because of the increase in material costs.

“The grant was just approved Tuesday,” said Beaver. “We will know more of the construction schedule soon now that we have the funding and have adjusted where materials are coming from.”

Pre-construction meetings are scheduled to happen in the next week to discuss timeline details.

“It is anticipated to get started working on the project in the next few weeks,” Beaver said. “Overall competition is expected in July of next year.”

Beaver previously said he anticipates further growth of the airport, highlighting what it can offer to the community, local economy and businesses. Other airport projects are on the to-do list for the future.

Reach reporter Emily Kahnke at 507-444-2376. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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