County approves lease for airport runway equipment

MARQUETTE — At Wednesday’s meeting, the Marquette County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a request from Sawyer International Airport staff to enter a lease for a used multifunction runway snowplow and broom combination, with an option to purchase the equipment.

The 2007 OshKosh multifunction runway snowplow and broom combination would be “effective for preventing and removing ice, reducing runway closures and canceled flights,” states a letter from Sawyer Director of Operations Steve Schenden and Sawyer International Airport Manager Duane DuRay.

“We pursued looking at this for a potential purchase due to the fact that a lot of our equipment at the airport currently is of an older era, DuRay said. “Our newest plow trucks are from 2003 and they were purchased shortly after Marquette County took over the airport from the Air Force.”

While the airport plans to acquire new equipment with Federal Aviation Administration grant funds in coming years, “staff believes leasing this equipment now is important to provide a safe and reliable airport for the community in the 2018/2019 winter,” the letter states.

“Our current 10-year plan allows the purchase of the next new plow in 2019, which we wouldn’t see until 2020, just due to construction times,” DuRay said. “So we looked at pursuing something that would give us a fill-gap and help to supplement our current equipment.”

According to board documents, the equipment could be purchased with 2018 Airport Capital Outlay Funds for $218,350 or leased for $27,293.75 annually from Macqueen Equipment of Minneapolis with zero percent interest.

An independent appraiser also assessed the equipment and “indicated that the vehicle is well worth the $218,000,” DuRay said, noting that cost of buying the equipment new would be nearly $1 million.

DuRay also noted that the lease could be terminated at the end of any given fiscal year if needed.

Commissioners asked DuRay if the equipment, being a 2007 model, would have a long remaining useful lifespan.

DuRay said the lifespan of this type of equipment tends to be 15 to 20 years, noting that it had been well maintained by its previous owner.

Responding to a question of the equipment’s effectiveness, DuRay explained that the equipment can help prevent ice build-up on the runway by removing runway contaminants before they turn into ice, noting other airports that have used the equipment spoke highly of it.

“The benefit of having this style broom is, as you’re plowing the runway, you have a 22-foot wide plow on the front of the truck, and as you’re plowing it, you come right behind it with the broom and anything that’s left behind from the plow is immediately broomed off and blown out of the way, so you’re leaving a surface that doesn’t have a hard pack or any remaining snow on it that can be run over and compacted to the runway,” he said. “So we’re very hopeful that this is a benefit for us long-term, as we move into the coming winters to help navigate around ice and compacted snow that quite honestly, in the last couple of years, has hit us extremely hard with runway closures and delays with the airlines.”

Commissioners decided to approve the lease, as it can be evaluated on an ongoing basis and is less costly than purchasing the equipment new.

“If these things do have an estimated life of 20 years, this is 10 years old and everybody says it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread … and we can get this for $27,000 (annually to) try it out for a year and see if it really is,” Commissioner Stephan Adamini said.

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is cbrown@miningjournal.net.