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Lakeland Airport Commission hears fencing project update; snowmobile trail issues

April 28, 2020 by Kayla Houp

The Lakeland Airport Commission heard last week an update from Matt Yentz from Strand Associates regarding the delay in the airport’s fencing project as well as the snowmobile club’s request to discuss issues with trail access.

“It was going to restart in April, the contractor — Marquette Fence — called very close to the first of April and said he was uncomfortable sending his guys over here to stay in the hotels and eat in the restaurants with Stay-at-Home orders in Michigan and here, so he asked for a 30-day postponement for his restart, which was granted to him,” Yentz said at the meeting on April 23.

With the extension to the “Safer at Home” order, Yentz said Marquette Fencing has yet to contact him as to whether they would request another 30-day extension, but that he “would anticipate he may.”

While the initial completion date for the fencing project was projected to be at the end of July, the delay would extend that date to Aug. 31, and an additional extension would push completion to September.

“They were able to complete the fence through the wetland portion, which needed to be done in frozen-ground conditions, so that did get completed, I’m gonna say late February or early March,” Yentz said.

Yentz said it was likely work would start again in June.

Fence modifications

The next thing which came up at the meeting were concerns from the Cross Country Cruisers snowmobile club regarding trail access and requests for modification to the fence allowment along the west side, Yentz said.

At the commission’s meeting March 26, the commission was approached by Cross Country Cruisers snowmobile club member Tom Wipperfurth regarding trail access for the club along Propwash Bay Rd., located adjacent to the airport.

According to the commission’s minutes for the March 26 meeting, Wipperfurth noted that “grooming activities would be adversely affected due to the 90-degree corners inherent in three different parts of the newly installed airport fence.”

“During a previous meeting, the Airport Commission had agreed to work with the Club; to try and provide snowmobile access along but outside the new fence,” the minutes read. “But for whatever reasons, it appears the builders of the fence (Marquette Fencing) was not informed of this action.”

The Commission revisited the issue with the snowmobile trail at its meeting last week, which Wipperfurth attended.

“I contacted Marquette Fence, who also worked with their sub-contractor, Straight Line Fence for rough costs for the proposed changes,” Yentz said, adding he had received those costs earlier that day.

Currently, Yentz said, the changes amounted to approximately $28,000.

Yentz said he had “discussed it briefly” with Matt Messina from the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics.

Yentz added he thought Marquette Fencing may have “overestimated” th. footages for the fence modifications. 

According to Yentz, Marquette Fencing was looking at “about 750-800 feet of fence removal” and “approximately 570 feet of new/relocated fence.”

“Even if you take the 570 feet, their base price for fence is $30 a foot, so that gets you to near $18,000 pretty fast, not counting 750 feet of removal,” Yentz said. “The majority of that west fence is constructed, it’s not just posts, and it’s more than that, too.”

For each corner, Yentz stated it was concreted in and there was a “fair amount of bracing.”

“So, at a 90-degree corner, there’s a single corner post, at a 45-degree angle, there’s two, so it kind of doubles up their bracing requirements, their concrete requitements, things of that nature,” Yentz said.

Groomers and mowers

While he admitted he didn’t have all the answers, Yentz said he was hopefully to work with Wipperfurth and the snowmobile club to see if those corners could be shortened.

“We just really need to limit the impact to the fence,” Yentz said. “I believe that if we can get it under $20,000, that would maybe be a palatable number to the BOA, and we’ll get their buyout first.”

Yentz explained the Commission would be responsible for 5%, and he was hopeful the BOA wouldn’t “argue substantially” if the cost could be reduced below $20,000.

“So the way it is now, it’s not usable for the trail?” commission chair Brandon Baker asked.

“What I want to do is try and reduce the impacts and see if I can get the BOA to agree to the change order to modify the fence to not only accommodate, I don’t want it to only be for the snowmobiles, because he’ll say no,” Yentz said. “So I wanna say you guys got a new mower and it’s really big, it’s harder to turn. Let’s make it about you and then maybe we can get these corners to be 45-degrees.”

“Those corners would have to be 45-degrees,” Wipperfurth said. “We cannot make that corner without infringing upon private property.”

Yentz said he was already concerned for the airport’s ability to mow the area. Though he didn’t have Lakeland Airport personnel Al “Fuzzy” Spatz test the 90-degree turn the snowmobile club indicated, Yentz said he set up a similar mock turn and asked if Spatz could make the turn.

“He made it no problem,” Yentz said. 

Trying to accommodate

Yentz said the goal now was to try and accommodate for the snowmobile club.

“We’re trying to move that piece right next to Propwash Bay. I understand that there was some town maintenance people that thought it was too close,” Yentz said. “... I’m trying, if I can scoot it away, we will, but they do have it up, and we’re talking about a $1.1 million fence here, if we tweak something that’s even $20,000, it’s still a $1-plus million fence. It’s unfortunate, but it isn’t everything.”

“I really wouldn’t wanna block these guys off or make it difficult for them to get through,” commission member Matt Gaulke said.

“I’m just gonna tell you right here, Matt Messina’s issue is the trail is a non-permitted use within your runway protection zones,” Yentz said. 

“Any financial help we can get is good,” Lakeland Airport administrator Jon Schmitz said. “Total the projects we’ve picked up over the last two years, is $1 million, of which we have to pay, right now $79,000. That’s money over and above our operating budget that we have to come up with.”

Schmitz continued, stating the towns had been “adamant that they’re not gonna give us any more money.”

“So, any help we can get that would certainly help our cash flow, if you guys could come up with something,” Schmitz said.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]

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