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Dunn County commits more for airport runway project

MANNING — As the first day of an expansion project commenced at Weydahl Field Airport in Killdeer, Dunn County commissioners agreed to provide an additional $157,000 for the project.

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Commissioners had already agreed to provide the 20 percent match for the runway expansion project, with most of the funding coming in a $4.2 million state energy impact grant earlier this month.

But the $900,000 Dunn County originally allocated for its match came up short.

The project cost was higher than expected — while designers factored in a “Bakken premium” of 30 percent to their original estimate of about $4.7 million, high aggregate costs meant the lowest bid for the project was just under $5.3 million, Dunn County Airport Authority Chairman Mike Schollmeyer said Wednesday during a regular commission meeting in Manning.

That put the county’s 20 percent match at just over $1 million, and required the extra money Wednesday.

As commissioners voted for the increased funding, crews were starting on new fencing for the expanded runway.

Chris Hans, a design engineer with Ulteig, said crews will begin removing the existing pavement structure next week and then will start moving the subgrade to the new runway’s location.

The runway is expanding to 60-by-4,200 feet, and dirt work will be laid for a possible future expansion to 75-by-5,000 feet, Schollmeyer said. That would open up the runway for planes holding as many as 20 people.

Even though the strip has been in “land at your own risk” condition, as Schollmeyer has said in the past, it’s been busy simply because of its location in the Oil Patch.

“Killdeer is the busiest closed airport in the state,” he told commissioners, recounting the case he made to the state Aeronautics Commission in seeking the grant.

Companies use western North Dakota airports more and more since the boom began to bring in crews and oil executives.

Schollmeyer shared with commissioners letters about a dozen letter from local businesses committed to using the runway once it’s expanded.

The expansion under way now will open up the runway for larger twin-engine planes, including aircraft carrying up to 10 people, Dunn County Airport Authority treasurer Jason Hutchinson previously told the Press.

Construction is expected to take 90 days, with a final contractor deadline of Oct. 26. Until then, planes can’t land at Weydahl Field, Schollmeyer said.

This grant, and one for the New Town airport, cuts into $25 million lawmakers had discussed giving to the relocation of Williston’s Sloulin Field International Airport, Forum News Service previously reported.

But state Sens. Rich Wardner and Kelly Armstrong fought hard for the Killdeer airport, and were pivotal in getting Weydahl Field some of the funds, Dunn County Commissioner Daryl Dukart said Wednesday.

“They put a lot of pressure” on the state Aeronautics Commission to share the money with Killdeer, Dukart said.

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