Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Airport to close again for week


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Ironwood Township — The Gogebic-Iron County Airport will need to close for a few days to wrap up the summer runway project, according to reports at the airport board meeting Monday.

The airport will close again from Thursday to Aug. 20 to allow workers to paint permanent lines and to cut 2-inch drainage gaps across the surface of the runway, said Michael Harma, airport manager. The work follows the runway reconstruction that occurred over 45 days through June and until mid July.

It takes about 30 days for enough oil to drain from fresh asphalt to conduct the work, Harma said. Simultaneous work will include replacing topsoils, grass seeding and marking the lighting, he said.

“We will be busy during the closure,” Harma said.

Boutique Air, Inc. took over from Air Choice One as the airport’s Essential Air Provider on Aug. 1. The airline is providing 13 weekly nonstop round trips to Chicago O’Hare International Airport and five weekly nonstop round trips to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“Most of their staff is hired and trained,” Harma said. “People seem to enjoy the flights and the faster speeds and smoother rides.”

The airline is still working out where it will overnight its planes, Harma said. At this point, it could still be in Chicago, Minneapolis or Ironwood.

The board asked to be notified if and when the airline would hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially kick off the two-year EAS contract.

Tom Laabs, a Gogebic County commissioner on the airport board, said he has had one call from someone who preferred Air Choice One. But he said that with the Boutique plane that is 100 mph faster it should please most passengers.

“Hopefully, we made the right decision,” Laabs said of contracting with Boutique Air.

Joe Bonovetz, another Gogebic County commissioner on the airport board, said he recalled getting complaints when the board switched the EAS from Great Lakes Air to Air Choice One. Great Lakes didn’t have enough pilots and so the need was there, he said.

“This is the least amount of calls that I have had (compared to) when we switched in the past,” Bono-vetz said of Boutique Air.

The five-member Gogebic-Iron County Airport Board unanimously approved authorization and signature of a $10,000 capital improvement and equipment project contract from the Michigan Department of Transportation. The funds will go toward a $24,021 airport terminal badging upgrade.

Harma said there is a second-year request to MDOT for an additional $10,000 grant that would leave the airport with $4,000 remaining on the project, Harma said. The upgrade will provide a new computer and badging system with a 15 to 20 year life to replace an antiquated system.

The board 5-0 approved a propane bid amount of $0.95 a gallon to Krist Propane Services LLC. The total anticipated liquid petroleum use for the year is 11,000 gallons.

Harma presented the board with a proposed fiscal year 2021 capital outlay budget and operating budget. The members will review the budget to consider for approval at the September meeting.

The appropriations are the same from both counties, Harma said. There is an anticipated drop in operating revenue based on a decrease in passengers numbers during the pandemic, he said.

The budget does prioritize a few items to include replacing the airport pickup truck that is around 15-years-old, and to acquire a new airport tractor while the trade-in value is relatively strong.

The new tractor is the main priority and should include a sidearm to cut long grass in the wetland ditches surrounding the runway, Harma said. The current tractor is aging and rental cutters are not always available, he said.

The airport received a $196,220 municipal airport per-and-poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The PFAS grant program helps airports monitor and test for the presence of PFAS, which are chemicals found in the foam that is sprayed on runways in the event of an emergency, Harma said.

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