FARGO — After months of disagreements between the two parties, the Fargo City Commission voted 5-0 Monday night, Jan. 13, to approve a new agreement with the Fargo Municipal Airport Authority, though no details were publicly released.
City Attorney Erik Johnson said under North Dakota law, the mediated settlement agreement is confidential until the Airport Authority also votes on it. That is expected to happen Tuesday morning when the airport authority meets at 8 a.m.
Despite a lack of specifics, Commissioner Tony Grindberg wanted to make it clear the agreement will not dissolve the Airport Authority as some residents, airport businesses and airlines had feared.
He said it was a mediated settlement "based on good-faith negotiations."
Grindberg praised Mayor Tim Mahoney and Commissioner John Strand, who both represented the city, for entering the talks with a "spirit of compromise in mind."
More details are expected to be released Tuesday if the Airport Authority votes to accept updates to the 50-year-old "memorandum of understanding."
Airport Authority Chairman Mike Haugen, who attended Monday's City Commission meeting, said his group will privately meet in executive session Tuesday morning and may have some "wording changes" in the draft agreement before voting in public.
Haugen, who negotiated the agreement for the authority with fellow member Rick Engen, said he "lost count" of the number of mediation sessions the two parties held with Karen Klein, a former U.S. District Court magistrate judge who runs a mediation service in Fargo.
The sessions started Dec. 16 and lasted about three weeks. Lawyers representing each side were also on hand for most of the meetings.
After the City Commission voted Monday, about 30 businesspeople associated with the airport and other residents, left the meeting. Some of those same people spoke at an earlier commission meeting about their appreciation for how the airport was operated under the authority.
In addition to that support, the mayor and commissioners had also received letters of support form the six passenger airlines that operate at Hector International. The latest letter was from Bud Hafer, manager of airport affairs for Allegiant Airlines, who wrote that the "management team at FAR have a proven track record of success of keeping costs low for tenants while maintaining passenger expectations and creating an environment conducive to continued air service growth."
Some of this came after a November City Commission meeting during which the possibility of dissolving the Airport Authority was discussed if a new agreement could not be reached.
The mediation effort was expected to focus on whether airport employees are city workers, as well as a number of services that the city provides to the airport.
The Airport Authority has been reviewing how much it pays the city for a number of vendor services and explored whether it should seek alternative providers in the private sector. It had already agreed to hire a private company, PRO Resources, to provide some of the services the city was providing, including human resources, payroll and benefits management.