News @ Noon: Stearns County Board Chair Says Regional Airport Authority A Long Way from Happening [AUDIO]
ST. CLOUD - St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis wants the three counties of Stearns, Benton and Sherburne to create a Regional Airport Authority to help support the St. Cloud Regional Airport. However, the chairman of the Stearns County Board of Commissioners says a lot of work would have to be done before he'd agree to that.
Leigh Lenzmeier says he would like to see a specific business plan for the airport, that would include new uses for the airport.
Lenzemeier says the addition of the National Guard Helicopter Base a couple of years ago was a good start. He says another example of a possible use would be to recruit the U.S. Forest Service to build a training center for fighting forest fires.
Lenzmeier says he thinks it would take at least two years to hammer out the details between Stearns, Benton, and Sherburne counties. But, Lenzmeier says the counties are involved in other regional efforts.
Lenzmeier says each county board chair has met once with St. Cloud city leaders, but there have been no formal discussions so far. He says, if the three counties of Stearns, Benton and Sherburne agree to form the authority, it would create a separate taxing jurisdiction.
He says the formation of a Regional Airport Authority is nothing new. It was initially brought up about 3 1/2 years ago.
Kleis has also been lobbying state lawmakers for a $2 million loan, with the hope of keeping SkyWest flying to Chicago, while they work out the details of a Regional Airport Authority.
SkyWest plans to end their twice-daily flights between St. Cloud and Chicago on March 1st, less than a year after they started the service back in May of 2014.