Towns Meet Jointly, Discuss Options in Dealing with City

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Kevin Murphy

TOWN OF MIDDLETON–The Town of Springfield may have a bargaining chip to use against the potential expansion of Middleton Municipal Airport-Morey Field.

In a rare joint virtual meeting of the Town of Middleton and Town of Springfield boards last week, Springfield Town Board Supervisor Dan Dresen suggested that the city of Middleton needs to work with the town on airport issues if the city wants help with storm water runoff. 

“The city wants help with their undersized storm water systems but the only way we’ll work with them is if they work with us on the airport,” said Dresen.

Dresen, who also is a member of the Airport Master Plan Advisory Committee, has questioned the idea of lengthening of the airport’s main runway when it’s been discussed at AMPAC meetings. He has relayed complaints from residents of the two towns about the increased noise and aircraft traffic in recent years, who oppose lengthening the runway to accommodate business jets and inclement weather operations.

A storm water initiative Dane County began in May 2019, was the purchase of 160 acres of farmland in the town, which, at the time, was touted as the county’s largest land acquisition ever.

The acquisition is adjacent to Pheasant Branch Conservancy which suffered extensive erosion in the August 2018 flood.

The approximately $10 million acquisition converts the cropland to prairie to allow rainfall to infiltrate into the soil and lessen the amount of runoff in waterways, including Pheasant Branchy Creek which empties into Lake Mendota.

While the city wants to use county grants to continue to add storm water storage or infiltration projects, Springfield board members noted that the county’s money would go further if it acquired land further distance from the city.

“For half of what the county paid, we can work in upland areas, pay the farmers for their crop loss and get infiltration which can’t be done further downstream,” said Town Chair Jim Pulvermacher.

Pulvermacher conditioned his cooperation with the city on its conducting the airport study in a transparent way. 

“If the city is working under the table on the airport, I’ll pull back,” he said.

Pulvermacher added that the August 2018 storm cost the city millions of dollars and businesses suffered greater losses but if a bigger airport is a higher priority, “Then I’ll let them and they’ll lose more businesses. That’s what my bargaining chips are,” he said.

Further warming to the idea, Pulvermacher suggested:

Let’s propose to the city that we don’t want that airport expanded and if they ignore that, then I’ll take my marbles and go home,” he said.

While city officials say that extending the airport’s main runway from 4,000 feet to 5,000 is only a possibility, the idea remains under discussion. In a phone interview Tuesday, Pulvermacher said he wants to see the city to officially state it won’t expand the airport.

Town of Middleton Chair Cynthia Richson said she supported the idea.

The boards took no action on the proposal before adjourning to closed session or, upon reconvening in open session.

Richson said she wasn’t aware of Springfield’s specific storm water management plans but expected the boards to meet jointly again and welcomed the cooperation Springfield offered.

“We’re all part of a larger community and need to view each other that way,” she said Monday.

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