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Commission agrees to close airport section lines

BOWMAN — With a new airport tentatively scheduled to open next year, the Bowman County Airport Authority had a piece of unfinished business to handle in order to secure the airport grounds.

Following the presentation of a petition from the authority, the Bowman County Commission on Tuesday voted to close section lines on airport grounds to public travel, thereby preventing unwanted foot and vehicle travel — usually open to the public — on the new airport’s footprint.

“You don’t want people driving on the runway or ramp — it has to be a secure area,” authority chairman Rodney Schaaf said. “The (Federal Aviation Administration) requires an airport to have a secure area, so there will be a fence put up around the property. Part of that process is that you have to close section lines. You need security at an airport, so there will be certain access points. That’s a requirement nowadays.”

The petition referenced portions of three sections of land encompassed by the new airport, which will be several miles east of Bowman. Schaaf said Phase I of the project — basically consisting of dirt work, grading and obstruction zone clearances — is complete and the second phase is set to begin in early 2014.

“Phase II will be the surfacing of the runway and ramp area with concrete and all of the electrical work, including landing lights and taxiway lights,” Schaaf said. “The third phase will be all the buildings under construction. The FAA would like to see the facility open by the fall of 2014, which, of course, depends on Mother Nature and some other things.”

Schaaf said, because of Bowman’s altitude, the planned 5,700-foot-long runway will be the longest for a “small, general aviation” airport in North Dakota. The final price tag for the new airport is expected to be about $15 million.

In other action during Tuesday’s meeting, the commission voted unanimously to reject a plan that would have supplied county employees with services from a company called The Village Business Institute, which offers an employee assistance program consisting of a number of counseling, consulting, wellness programs and other employee services.

“It looks to me like this would really take away any personal responsibility for anything,” County  Commissioner Bill Bowman said during discussion about the service. “It looks like they have a program for just about anything, but how much is enough? To me, it looks like just another way to grow government.”

The commission voted 3-1 to scrap the idea, with Pine Abrahamson representing the lone dissenting vote. Contracting services from The Village would have cost the county about $900 to cover 30 employees for one year. Bowman County currently counts 34 full-time and four part-time employees.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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