ALPENA - Last week the Alpena County Board of Commissioners forwarded a contract with Sixel Consulting Service to help find a suitable replacement for Delta Airlines after the Department of Transportation indicated Mayor Matt Waligora will be the point person in communication with the federal government. The commissioners approved paying half of the $4,900 retainer, but thought the city should be the entity to enter into the agreement.
On Monday night, Alpena Municipal Council voted to allow Waligora to sign the document, contingent it being deemed satisfactory to City Attorney Bill Pfeifer.
"The DOT sees the city as their contact, and that is not just specific to Alpena, that is how they operate everywhere," Waligora said. "We need to kind of move on this, because the consultant is sort of working on good faith right now."
The city's portion for hiring Sixel will be $2,450, which follows $4,000 the city contributed to send a contingent of Alpena representatives and the consultant to Utah to negotiate with Sky West Airlines, which did not bid in the most recent request for proposal for the local air service opening. Councilman Mike Nunneley said the airport issue goes beyond individual units of government, and both sides must pull their weight to get the results the people in the area deserve.
"There is a time and a place where municipalities and elected officials are charged with defending their municipality. This is not one of those times," Nunneley said. "This is not an Alpena County issue, and this is not a City of Alpena issue. This is an Alpena issue. There are times when we need to come together, and that time is now."
Nunneley said the local governing bodies need to work together with the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, Target Alpena and the DOT closely, because if air service at the airport is lost or inadequate, it will have far-reaching ramifications.
"It will affect the entire community," Nunneley said. "You will see people leave. You will see businesses leave. You will see businesses choose to not come here, and if you think there are a lot of "For Sale" signs up now, wait until that happens. I think it is time to pull together and face this."
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Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.