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Airport Authority Commission mulls firearm policy

DICKINSON - Discussion at a recent Dickinson Airport Authority Commission meeting turned to whether or not Dickinson airport personnel should have access to a shotgun.

A proposed policy states a shotgun purchased by the airport would be used to manage small wildlife found near or on the runways.

Airport manager Matthew Remynse presented the firearms policy to the commission for approval at Tuesday's meeting.

"We've had pheasants, a lot of pheasants on the west end of the airport. We had gotten rid of some coyotes by just scarring them off the airfield," Remynse said. "We've noticed our pheasant population increasing. Great Lakes hit a pheasant and we have the depredation permits, but we don't have any way to enforce the depredation."

During the discussion, Chairman Thomas Reichert suggested there be a six-month period, in which Remynse would record in a journal when wildlife were in the vicinity of aircraft or seen on the property.

The policy was then defeated by a vote of 1-2, with one abstention. Charles Krug voted for the policy and Reichert and Vice-Chairman Jon Frantsvog voted against. Craig Steve abstained.

"We've gone without this for a long long time," Frantsvog said. "I don't think we need it."

The commission agreed the journal should be kept over a six-month period and the topic could be brought up again at that time.

"It gives Matt an opportunity to come back and say, 'Yeah, there is a problem, here's why or no there isn't a problem,'" Reichert said.

The policy presented by Remynse states only authorized employees of the Dickinson Airport would have access to the shotgun and they would take a hunter's safety class.

The shotgun would be securely stored in a case with a trigger lock, separately from the ammunition.

Reichert said he can see the need.

"I think when you have an airport in a rural setting like we do, I think it's a legitimate issue that needs to be dealt with," Reichert said. "And I think if we do it within the confines of an appropriate policy so it's done properly, I think it makes a lot of sense. It mitigates the problems we have with wildlife."

Airports in Devils Lake, Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown and Minot each have firearm policies, said Remysne. He added the Grand Forks airport routinely uses a shotgun to scare waterfowl away from the area near its runways.

"It's not hunting," Remynse said. "If we see a pheasant that's close to the runway we can shoot a bird banger or lethal means at the pheasant or gull."

"It gives him a tool to discourage the animals from being around here," Reichert said.

Steve doesn't think it would have that much of an effect.

"If you believe that shooting at pheasants or shooting pheasants stops them from coming in, then I've got swamp land in Florida that I'd like to sell you for $1,000 an acre," Steve said.

As it stands, Remynse can contact Game and Fish officials to manage big game that wander onto the airfield, but smaller game such as pheasants or seagulls he can't do anything about.

Also discussed at the meeting were two change orders. One is for work on the General Aviation Terminal for $1,635. The second is for parking lot construction for $162,753.

Both were approved unanimously by the commission.