Support for upgrading the Ontonagon County Airport is mounting, the County Board learned Tuesday.
“This is extremely important,” said resident Alan Ralph, a member of the county’s Economic Development Authority and village’s Downtown Development Authority. “We strongly support this.”
In order to outfit the airport with a weather reporting system to allow planes to land more often, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will grant about $150,000 if the Michigan Department of Transportation and county match the funds, each at approximately $8,500.
Additional maintenance costs would cost the county approximately $4,000 to $6,000 annually, but the airport is expected to generate more revenue from the increased traffic to offset those costs.
Ontonagon County Airport Manager Margot Anderson also has encouraged the board to support the major upgrade, supplying letters from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the townships of Ontonagon and Rockland.
Chairman Carl Nykanen suggested Anderson seek support from the rest of the townships, as well.
“Glad to see the airport is receiving some project funding,” said John Matonich, DNR chairman from Marenisco. “To me, the airport is vital to the area’s success. I have used the airport a number of times on state business and it does have limitations which require us to not be able to use it especially in the winter months. This requires us to travel a lot greater distance to find an airport that is able to be used. Any improvements that would allow greater use would be a time and money saver for a number of the users.”
The installation of the weather system will help other businesses work in the area, as well.
Ralph has been in touch with Lake Shore Systems, which is considering putting more employees to work in Ontonagon next year.
“Lake Shore said it’s not just us coming into and (going) out of Ontonagon,” Ralph said. “It’s customers. This weather equipment at the airport is a major piece of the puzzle.”
Not only is Lake Shore considering helping to fund the local match required for the FAA funding, but it is also considering turning over some of its lakefront property at the end of the main street for public use.
“We’re working on a major deal to open up a beachfront property” on about three acres of land near the Lake Shore building for a public park.
“It’s serious potential for our children — and adults,” said Commissioner Gray Webber.