The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

County board receives letter backing continued air funds



Bessemer — The Gogebic County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday received a letter backing continued funding for the federal Essential Air Services program at the Gogebic-Iron Counties Airport and other Upper Peninsula airports.

The proposed elimination of EAS by President Donald Trump in the fiscal year 2018 budget would not only threaten air service to Ironwood and other small communities, but hamper economic development from a president who has pledged to improve the economy of the country.

The county board received the letter from Joe Stevens, Michigan Association of Counties director for Region 1. He said eliminating EAS would “deal a crippling blow to large sections of our state.”

The county board received the letter and placed it on file.

The Gogebic-Iron Airport is served by Air Choice One, with headquarters in St. Louis. It provides flights to Chicago and Minneapolis.

The last nationwide efforts to cut EAS funding involving the local airport occurred in 2004 and 2011.

Air Choice One was first granted a two-year EAS contract in Ironwood in 2014 by the federal Department of Transportation. Last June, ACO was re-selected by the federal Department of Transportation to provide EAS to Ironwood through July 2020, using nine-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft to Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The annual subsidy to Air Choice One begins at $3.3 million and increases to $3.6 million in 2020.

The EAS program is also in place at U.P. airports in Chippewa County, Delta County, Dickinson County and Houghton County.

In Dickinson County, large employers such as Verso and MJ Electric Contractors would be affected. MJ Electric spends more than $200,000 annually for flights through the Ford Airport, Stevens said in his letter to Gogebic County.

At Ford Airport, an EAS contract was renewed last month with SkyWest Airlines, which offers daily flights to Minneapolis and Detroit.

Nationwide, the EAS program provides $175 million for commercial air service at 173 small airports, including the five in the U.P.

Brian Bousley, Dickinson County’s controller, sent letters earlier this year to Michigan’s U.S. senators stressing the importance of the program.

Trump’s budget states EAS flights are not full and have high subsidy costs per passenger.

In other business Wednesday, the board agreed to spend up to $20,000 to improve courthouse security.

Gogebic County Emergency Management Director Jim Loeper said the old alarm system in the courthouse that is failing will be replaced and access points will be reduced. Doors that allow people to leave, but not enter without an access card, were discussed.

A video entry system will also be installed.

The board unanimously approved purchasing the equipment.


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