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County to accept airport grants

September 19, 2012
Steve Schulwitz - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - The Alpena County Finance Committee recommended Airport Manager Billi McRoberts accept three government grants, which will be used for a study at the airport, emergency repairs on a runway, and to pay the bill for the design of hangars that are yet to be constructed. The three federal grants total $238,420, while the county and state of Michigan's match is only $8,600.

The largest of the grants will be used to have the pavement at the airport evaluated and a replacement design drafted. The overall cost of the study is $181,600, but the government is contributing more than $170,000 to the cause leaving the state and the county to pay $4,500 each.

The second grant, a block grant, will be used for emergency pavement repairs on the airport's main runway, which has been damaged from the excessive heat, as well as wear and tear. The cost of the repairs is estimated at being $40,000 and the grant is for $38,000 leaving the commissioners only $1,000 in financial commitment.

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News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Alpena County Prosecutor Ed Black and Kelly Nowakowski make a presentation to the Alpena County Finance Committee on Wednesday. Black told the commissioners the local adult drug court had received a pair of grants — one from the federal government for $350,000 and another from the state for $21,000.

The final grant is for $31,000 and will offset the cost the county paid to have the designs made for a T-hangar which was to be constructed. The plans were drafted and the state was on board with the new hangers being built, but after the plan was submitted to the Federal Aviation Adminstration, the federal government decided against the project, even though it had indicated previously it was in support. The county and state's obligation for the grant is $3,100 each.

Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said the government's investment in the airport is positive, especially as the county continues to move forward in making it a hub for unmanned aircraft training and testing.

"The feds are involved in these projects and dictate some things, however, we know it is to better the airport," VanWormer said. "Even though we aren't building the T-hangar right now, we know that by having the plan in place and shovel ready, it could allow us to move forward with it down the road with funding from them."

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Commissioner Rich Fourtier said the more the airport can accomplish in repairs and planning before a decision is made on Alpena being designated a "Center of Excellence" for the project, the better off it will be.

"I think the more prepared we are, the better our chances are," Fourtier said. "We have to have all of our i's dotted and t's crossed, and having said that, I think we are in pretty good shape because of what we are doing now."

The largest of the grants wasn't received by McRoberts until Friday afternoon and needed to be returned to the government by 12 p.m. Wednesday. Because it usually takes the approval of the full board of commissioners, a phone poll was needed to get the approval. VanWormer said this isn't the first time notifications have come in just under the deadline and quick action needed to be taken. He said he isn't a fan of doing phone polls, but when time is of the essence and important decisions need to be made, they must be utilized.

"I don't like poll votes. Some of this information and even though it has been looked at by the prosecutor, we just got it, and I would like for us to have a little more time instead of being under such a tight deadline," VanWormer said.

In other business:

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5689.



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