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Marquette County Board to reconsider airport grant today

MARQUETTE — A special meeting will be held by the Marquette County Board of Commissioners at 3 p.m. today in room 231 of the Henry A. Skewis Courthouse Annex to reconsider the Federal Aviation Administration’s Military Airports Program Grant at Sawyer International Airport.

During the board’s regular meeting last week, the grant was discussed and decided to be too much of a financial risk for the board to approve, but since the meeting, the Michigan Department of Transportation Aeronautics division committed to providing matching funds up to roughly $786,000, board documents state.

The MAP grant will include several hangar expansions and upgrades throughout its five-year cycle at a total project cost of roughly $13.3 million.

The first project grant will fund the expansion of hangar 665, which serves as the maintenance repair and overhaul facility for Envoy Air Inc. or American Eagle Airlines at Sawyer. This funding will be roughly $1.225 million with a federal share of nearly $1.1 million, a state share of $64,600 and local share of $61,000.

The lack of formal commitments by the state and other entities of the project was a cause of concern for the board because without other partners its approval of the grant could have led to a much greater cost, roughly $1.6 million, said Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch.

“It’s an important decision for the board,” Erbisch said. “It’s difficult when you’re dealing with large dollars like this. We have a very fiscally prudent board, but you also have a large employer. It’s important for their stability to potentially be here to have this expansion. There’s some positive things to look at, but the board also has responsibility fiscally, so it’s a tough dynamic and that’s the importance of getting the state funding on board.”

The board will reconsider approval of the MAP grant this afternoon.

“It’s important to the community,” Erbisch said. “Over 200 jobs are there at the maintenance repair and overhaul facility, and this expansion will help the capability for what would allow for larger aircraft for Envoy to be putting into their maintenance rotation once the hangar is expanded, and that’s really important for the future of that operation out there.”

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.