County board still not sure which airport consulting firm to go with

By Charlie Warner

Argus News Editor

Will Houston County continue to use the services of Mead & Hunt for consulting work at the county airport?

The jury is still out on that question.

Last month the county board discussed the issue at some length when Highway Engineer Brian Pogodzinski brought a request to the board during the March 13 meeting to approve a contract with Mead & Hunt. He explained that in order to continue receiving the annual aviation funds from the FAA, the county had to have a consulting firm in place.

Pogodzinski, commissioners Jack Miller and Justin Zmyewski and EDA Director Justin Wilms went through a grading system with Mead & Hunt and TKDA Consultants, which were the two companies that submitted consulting bids to the county.

Pogodzinski said Mead & Hunt has been very good with the day to day issues that come up, have served as the airport consultants for a number of years and have a good grasp on the current situation at the airport.

Pogodzinski added that the county has also had good working relationships with TKDA, as that firm has conducted a number of bridge inspections.

The board did not take any action on the proposed contract at the March 13 meeting.

Last week Pogodzinski asked the board to consider hiring Mead & Hunt to do the consulting work on a pavement replacement project that needs to be done around the airport hangars. He noted that a plane had been damaged last year, due to the poor shape of the asphalt taxiway.

In order to utilize the $150,000 payment the county received in 2009 from the FAA, specs for the improvement work on the airport must be developed and bids let by the end of May.

“We will have to have the specs put together within a couple of weeks,” Pogodzinski told the board.

A motion by Commissioner Steve Schuldt and seconded by Commissioner Teresa Walter to approve a short-term contract with Mead & Hunt for the pavement replacement project was unanimously approved.

Discussion then moved on to whether or not the county should enter into another long-term contract with Mead & Hunt.

Several members of the Friends of the Houston County Airport were on hand. They voiced their displeasure with Mead & Hunt.

Vern Fruechte opined that because of the delay in the environmental assessment study that Mead & Hunt conducted on the proposed airport improvement project, the project will cost more.

Dale Scobie told the board that several of the top people at Mead & Hunt left the firm to start up their own consulting company, Bolton & Memk.

Arnie Beneke said that Faribault, Albert Lea and Owatonna were three cities that are no longer using Mead & Hunt for their airport consulting work. Instead those three cities are using Bolton & Memk.

The board decided to once again take a “wait and see” approach with this issue and took no action.

In other board action:

Litigation settlement

The board went into closed session with County Attorney Jamie Hammell and HR Director Tess Arrick-Kruger to discuss pending litigation.

When the board came out of closed session, a motion was made by Schuldt and seconded by Walter to approve the recommended settlement with former Human Services Social Worker Andrew Melde. The motion was unanimously approved.

Melde tendered his resignation with the county in March.

No other information was made available.

County auction moved up?

With quite a bit of old furniture and other office supplies currently being stored at the Houston County Fairgrounds, the board discussed holding the annual county auction earlier this summer.

E911/GIS Coordinator Dan Krzoska, who has been helping coordinate some of the reorganizing of offices at the courthouse, explained that if the auction could be scheduled earlier in the summer, county staff wouldn’t have to move all the auction items out of the buildings when they need to be cleared out for preparation for the county fair.

Schuldt, who has helped with the auction in the past was asked if an earlier auction date would hurt the sale, he replied that he didn’t think so.

“The county should do just as well. I don’t think a lot of people came to the auction because it was the same time the fair was going on. People who go to auctions will go to an auction regardless.”

He added that if all the items were still located in the buildings on the fairgrounds and auction day turned out to be a rainy day, the weather wouldn’t impact the sale as much, because everything would be under a roof.

County Auditor Char Meiners said she will be sending letters out to all the municipalities in the county letting them know about the auction and checking to see if they have any items they would like to include.

An auction date will be set in the near future.