County board approves concept budget report for Sawyer airport


MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Board of Commissioners at its July 2 meeting approved a request to pursue a concept budget report for Sawyer airport through Mead & Hunt, an engineering consultant, that would allow airport staff to explore options dealing with overcrowding.

The CBR request was approved by the board 4-2 with commissioners Joe Derocha and Bill Nordeen opposing.

The airport has experienced increased passenger growth over the last few years, which is creating overcrowding in the “sterile” area and beginning to stress supporting systems in the air carrier terminal, board documents state. The CBR would provide the specific details needed to reconfigure the airport terminal such as stages of development needed, classification of the funding elements, estimated costs and next steps.

Airport staff in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration have scheduled the terminal reconfiguration into the airport’s 2020 Capital Improvement Plan. The CBR is eligible under the FAA Airport Improvement Program grant with an estimated cost of $165,000. The federal share will provide $148,500 of the funding, and the state and local shares will provide $8,250 each.

The project is eligible to be paid for by the passenger facility charge and will be added to the next PFC application.

The board also unanimously approved a request for a right of first refusal for Superior Extrusion Inc. for county airport land adjacent and south of its facility.

The refusal gives SEI the right to enter into a lease or purchase of that airport land before it is offered to other interested buyers for its potential future expansion.

“I have determined that any expansion would require the lease/purchase of additional land to accommodate the incorporation of two additional aluminum extrusion press lines and associated buildings,” George T. LaBlonde III, chairman for the SEI Board of Directors, said in documents to the county board. “Furthermore, this future expansion(s) would also require the relocation of the access road and the current utility corridor to the Sawyer International Airport Terminal and associated parking.”

Airport staff and the Federal Aviation Administration were in support of the possible expansion and overall growth of SEI, documents also state.

Terms and conditions of the right of first refusal will be established in a formal agreement.

A memorandum for a land lease by U.S. Turbine for a Sawyer airport building was unanimously approved at the meeting.

U.S. Turbine recently purchased an engine test cell at the airport and planned to remove the structure from the site. After further consideration, it decided to try to operate the test cell and wants to lease the 1,560-square-foot pole barn and a 2-acre parcel next to the structure to do so, board documents state.

The terms of the lease are for one year with the option for two five-year extensions. The starting rate is $1,500 per month and increases 3% annually. U.S. Turbine will receive a 5% discount if the entire amount is paid at the beginning of the lease year.

“It was a real surprise to the board because we had sold the engine test zone to U.S. Turbine for $175,000,” said Gerald Corkin, county board chairman. “It sat unused for approximately 20 years, so U.S. Turbine offered to buy, and when they came up to take a look at it they decided they wanted to reuse it right at the site, so they asked for a lease of some property there. If the operations of the test zone work out as they hope it does, it will employ up to 30 people, so it was good news for the reuse of the engine test zone at Sawyer.”

The board also approved a resolution in support of keeping the current funding level for the Community Corrections Plans and Services of the Michigan Department of Corrections.

A suggested reduction of $400,000 in the Community Corrections Plans and Services 2019-20 Fiscal Year was proposed, according to board documents. The board asked that funding remain at the current level found in the FY 2018-19 budget.

“It helps keep people out of the jail and gives the judges options for certain people to be able to promote without having to jail them, so it’s worked well in our county,” Corkin said. “We’re the only county in the U.P. that meets the criteria for it. We hope the program can continue because it helps relieve some of the pressure on the jail.”

These funds provide programming options such as domestic violence programming, substance use disorder treatment, sex offender treatment programming, cognitive behavioral treatment, educational and vocational opportunities, and more.

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.