Iron County weighs new airport idea


Staff Writer

CRYSTAL FALLS – Members of the Iron County Board of Commissioners are continuing to consider a proposal to locate a new airport in the south central region of the county.

Commissioners discussed the topic at their monthly meeting on Thursday, after first hearing about it at their October meeting.

At the October meeting, the county’s ad hoc airport committee informed the board that Iron County’s two existing airports are not in ideal locations.

For example, the Iron County Airport in Mastodon Township is too close to Ford Airport in Kingsford to be eligible for federal funding and the Stambaugh Airport in Iron River sits right up against a military air space that is not always accessible to other pilots.

Airport committee members said that they wanted an airport that could accommodate business-type aircraft, be instrument rated, and be eligible for federal funding.

With these features in mind, the committee found a site for a potential new airport. The area is located south of Gaastra, near the Wisconsin border, and between the Iron and Brule rivers.

During the board’s Thursday meeting, Commissioner Patti Peretto voiced her approval of the proposal.

“We have to at least look at it,” she said. “It’s a chance we have to take.”

However, Peretto noted that the county is not in a position to contribute any money to an airport construction project at this time.

Attorney Steve Tinti, who serves as the board’s civil counsel, said that even if the committee could obtain federal funding, the project would still require a significant amount of local dollars.

Other commissioners also expressed caution.

Commissioner Jim Brennan pointed out that although the proposed site looks good, it is currently privately-owned.

Board Chair Carl Lind said that he would support a new airport as long as the cost does not rest on the taxpayers. He added that if a new airport is constructed, he would not want taxpayers to keep supporting the county’s other two airports.

Tinti told commissioners that if they want to move forward, the next step would be to upgrade the ad hoc airport committee to a formal airport committee. He said that he would prepare a sample resolution for the board to review at its December meeting.

The board took no further action.

In other business, the board:

– Tabled action on a sub-recipient agreement between the county and Northern Economic Initiatives Corporation.

The agreement would allow Northern Economic Initiatives Corporation to manage the county’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, which would stay in Iron County to provide loans to small businesses. Also, the county board would have a representative on the loan committee.

Commissioners were concerned that the county’s economic development corporation (EDC) may not be in favor of the agreement. They decided to put off action until they could consult with the EDC board.

– Tabled action on a memorandum of understanding with the Michigan State University Extension for educator services and the 4-H program in 2014. Commissioners thought that the cost of $34,545 was too expensive for the services they receive. They decided to delay action until they could obtain more information.

– Accepted the high bid of $36,155.65 from Shamco, Inc. for the county’s timber sale in the Oss Road area.

– Allowed organizers of the IronLine Sled Dog Race to use seven to eight miles of Iron County Recreation Trail 16 for the 2014 race. The race will take place on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in Iron River.

– Tabled action on the Iron County Museum’s request for an annual allocation. Commissioners learned that museum representatives may not have been aware that the issue was on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting.

– Approved an independent contractor agreement between the Iron County Construction Code office and plumbing/mechanical inspector James Shapy. Iron County Administrator Sue Clisch explained that the county does not currently have its own plumbing/mechanical inspector. Shapy operates out of the Dickinson County area and would be more readily available than inspectors from other areas, she said.

– Adopted the Iron County 2013-2018 hazard mitigation plan.

– Accepted the 2013 apportionment report.

– Accepted the following ratified union contracts: Iron County Corrections Officers Local 1424 AFSCME agreement, deputies agreement, and Iron County Courthouse AFSCME union agreement.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is