Local News: City to tackle ‘predator habitat’ at airport (02/7/22)

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The town of Poplar Bluff plans to use COVID relief money to reduce liability for lawsuits at the regional airport.

City council members on Monday discussed the need to reduce “predator habitat” near the runways at Poplar Bluff Regional Business Airport.

In practical terms, according to airport manager Gary Pride, this will mean more frequent mowing will be needed at the airport, which recently upgraded the runways to allow larger planes to land. Offers have been solicited for a tractor to help with this, which will be paid for from American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Tall grass creates habitat for mice and rabbits, which bring in predators like chicken hawks and coyotes, Pride explained at the regular city council meeting.

The airport previously allowed one person to bale hay from the area surrounding the airport, including areas near the runways.

“There were even one or two successful lawsuits where airports doing what we were doing were chased by planes that hit predators as they departed,” Pride said. “They were held responsible because they were creating habitat for such things.”

Pride believes that the airport’s current staff of three part-timers and one full-timer will be able to handle the mowing of the area near the runway.

The new equipment will have the added benefits of being able to help with snow removal and moving goods, he said.

“It really fills a lot of voids for us,” Pride said. “About 200 people a month get off these planes seeing Poplar Bluff for the first time. It will also add to the beauty of the airport, being able to keep (the area) well maintained.

The board is expected to vote Feb. 22 on the equipment bids.

City Manager Matt Winters and Pride recommended council purchase a John Deere tractor from Greenway Equipment of Poplar Bluff at a cost of $71,800.

It was the highest of the three bids but offered the best guarantee, Winters said.

The equipment is otherwise identical, Pride said.

Offers were also received from Baker Implement at $68,580 for a Kubota and $70,330 from Baker Implement for a Case IH.

All items were to include a bushhog, blade, forks and front loader.

The John Deere comes with a two-year warranty longer than the Case or Kubota, according to Pride.

In other business, council discussed a net metering policy for municipal utilities, which must be approved annually. The policy establishes procedures for customers who generate their own electricity by other means.

That number has doubled over the past year, said Bill Bach, chief executive. In 2020, the utility had six qualifying customers for the net metering policy and that number grew to 15 in 2021.

In 2021, the utility received 14,743 kilowatt hours from customer generators, up from just over 1,000 kilowatt hours the year before.

Council members also discussed city utility plans to destroy obsolete records, in accordance with regulations established by state law, and update ordinances regarding the gross receipts tax collected from telecommunications companies. to comply with Missouri law.

Obsolete records include items as old as 1984, miscellaneous correspondence files, and as recent as gasoline logs from 2017.

Telecommunications companies currently pay 5% gross receipts taxes, Winters said, which is regulated by state law. Poplar Bluff’s bylaws record an amount of 2.2% and should be updated to reflect the correct amount, he said. This will be voted on at the next board meeting.

In a city manager’s report, Winters praised street service workers for their efforts to clear ice and snow from the roads.

“Having as much sleet as we had is a whole different animal,” Winters said. “They’ve been working hard the last few days, trying to break the ice.”

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