A special, joint online meeting of the Montevideo City Council and the Chippewa County Board of Commissioners was held on Monday, April 27 via Zoom. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss issues that have arisen related to the T-hangar Project at the Montevideo-Chippewa County Airport. All council members and all county board members were present for the meeting. In addition, Shawn McMahon of Short Elliot Hendrickson (SEH) was also in on the meeting. (SEH was lead design for the project.)

A special, joint online meeting of the Montevideo City Council and the Chippewa County Board of Commissioners was held on Monday, April 27 via Zoom. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss issues that have arisen related to the T-hangar Project at the Montevideo-Chippewa County Airport. All council members and all county board members were present for the meeting. In addition, Shawn McMahon of Short Elliot Hendrickson (SEH) was also in on the meeting. (SEH was lead design for the project.)

Ground was broken on the project late last fall, with site work being done by Duininck, Inc., of Prinsburg. In November of 2019, SEH notified all interested parties of an issue which had come up about the project’s poured concrete slab. It was discovered that the slab was 1.6 inches below grade.

Due to the topography of the site, rainwater drains to the west and northwest, potentially allowing for a situation where rainwater could enter the T-hangar.

Commissioner Jeffrey Lopez, who is also on the Airport Commission, said: “It was the desire of the Airport Commission to see that this new hangar have the proper elevation height-wise so water would not enter into it. After eight or nine meetings, elevation was discussed, and many commission members were saying the hangar was in a hole. That is the number one issue.”

Other issues mentioned by Lopez included: a red iron I-beam post in the 50-foot wide hangar that is centered where a plane’s tail section would go; the grading on the taxi lane on the north side of the new hangar and the Arneson hangar appear to be off; and there is no rodent guard protecting the metal liner panels on the inside of the hangar bays.

Council member Todd Hay, also a member of the Airport Commission, agreed with Lopez’s assessment. “What Jeff said was correct; the elevation inadvertantly ended up lower than what the plan showed. It should have been corrected, and in my estimation, if we had known this was going to be an issue, it should have been addressed last fall when we had a concrete slab there. We could have potentially looked at the cost of either removing that slab or adding on to it in order to make sure it was at correct elevation,” he said.

According to Hay, at the time, the Airport Com­mission decided to let SEH go ahead and regrade and move on with the project. “It wasn’t until this spring after the building was up that they started looking at the grade,” said Hay. “It became very pronounced that the building was in a low area.”

Hay also mentioned that the taxi way immediately to the south of the Arneson Hangar appeared to be flat or slightly sloping toward the door of the Arneson Hangar.

SEH is looking at removing some of the asphalt along the Arneson hangar taxiway and regrading so water flows away from the hangar, which would help with water flow toward the new hangar.

As far as the red iron post in the 50 foot hangar, Hay believes that the issue stems from different interpretations. Hay said: “SEH was looking at that space as additional storage place for miscellanious stuff, but commission members were thinking larger planes. I do agree that the red iron post does cause issues for storing multipleplanes in there as well as large planes, but it also allows extra storage for miscellanious stuff. Either way, it doesn’t adequately meet the aspects of what we were looking for.”

Lopez then asked if the red iron post was placed in the right spot according to the blueprints. Shawn McMahon, representing SEH said: “Per the blueprints submitted by Everstrong, it is in the right spot. We identified that it doesn’t line up with the tail of a 50-foot wingspan aircraft. That is why SEH is looking at measures to move the post to a location to allow the T-hangar bay to be utilized by a larger aircraft.” (Editor’s note: Everstrong is the contractor who built the hangar.)

McMahon mentioned that the post could either be moved by five feet to allow the tail section to pass freely, or it could be moved 15 feet to the wall in order to support a beam that would span the bay and support the rafter. “There is a cost difference between moving the post five feet or moving it to the side wall. SEH understands that the hangar bay cannot be used as it was intended to be designed for by the Airport Commission to house a larger aircraft. This is something SEH would fix at no cost to your commission,” he said.

“I do apologize for all the extra work; it’s not lost on me all the effort you are putting forth into what we are working through,” McMahon continued. “When the issue was first raised back in late October, we did identify the problem and we are standing by our work. We are doing our best to fix the project in order for it to be used the way it was intended.”

According McMahon, SEH will be working on grading around the site to make sure there are no areas where ponding can occur.

A number of commissioners expressed concerns about other issues. Commissioner David Lieser was concerned about the integrity of the building itself after work is completed. Commissioner Matt Gilbertson expressed concern about water ponding in the proposed shallow ditches. Commis­sioner Jim Dahlvang worried that heavy rains could enter the T-hangar.

In the end, both the city council and county board voted to seek a second opinion, along with the cost of the second opinion, from an outside engineer regarding SEH’s revised plans to correct the issues.

Funding for the $500,000 T-hangar project came from the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation’s Aeronautics division. No local tax dollars were used for the project.

For now, the t-hangar project is on hold until pending a plan to move forward from SEH, and a second opinion on SEH’s plan from another engineer.