Airport plan to keep new terminal moving forward

ALPENA – Work to upgrade the Alpena County Regional Airport and the county-owned property adjacent to it continues with the approval of the 10-year capital improvement program. The plan prioritizes what improvements need to be made at the airport and approved by the Federal Aviation Commission.

Among the items in the plan are the future construction of a new terminal and various runway improvements and repairs. During Wednesday’s Alpena County Finance Committee meeting the plan was tentatively approved, pending a full board vote at the regular board of commissioner’s meeting on Jan. 29.

Airport Manager Billi McRoberts said the plan is updated annually and the projects can be moved up or down according to priority and available funding. Some of the money used to do the jobs is paid with subsidies from the FAA. For each of the last two years the airport has surpassed 10,000 enplanements, which entitles it to $1 million for both 2011 and 2012 from the federal government.

The county is required to contribute a 2.5 percent match for whatever projects are done with the federal money and a special line item containing $25,000 is in place each year to help cover the county’s obligation.

“The enplanement numbers we talk about and the $1 million from them are what we use for these types of things,” McRoberts said. “The treasurer sets aside the match money and that is available to us when we need it.”

Commissioner Lyle VanWormer said keeping the biggest item on in the plan is the construction of a new terminal, which could cost as much as $10 million. He said down the road when the new terminal is constructed it would be much larger than the existing one. He said before that, however, there needs to be work done to the existing terminal and the work could commence soon.

“The biggest thing on it is the new terminal, however we have a remodeling project which we need to have done immediately,” VanWormer said. “Right now the holding area is too small and we need to make it bigger to help the new airline, but that is only a quick fix. With everything we have going on out there with the unmanned aircrafts a new terminal could be a big plus. I think right now though the work on the runways needs to be the first thing addressed.”

The committee also will recommend to the full board to have the county owned property on Airport Road staked and legal descriptions for each parcel attached. Wilcox & Associates will do the work for a cost of between $10,000 and $12,000. The land already has been surveyed and broken up into parcels and plans are laid out for how water and sewer systems can be installed.

Grade A roads are also a part of the plans. VanWormer said having everything in order for the land is important for potential developers. He said there already is interest in some of the land and some development on it could be coming soon.

“We have one party already interested in some of the property and they would like to break ground in the spring,” VanWormer said. I can’t really say too much about it, but I expect there to be more interest, so that is why we are having all of this done now, so it is set to go.”

In other business:

  • the commissioners voted to recommend to the full board spending $791 out of the Northern Lights Arena Surcharge Fund for work to be done on a wall on the upper level that shifted and needed to be fixed. A two-thirds vote is required to use the surcharge funds and can be used only for work on original materials at the arena.
  • the committee will recommend spending $5,000 for remodeling inside the house at the fairgrounds and in the annex building. The house at the fairgrounds needs flooring, a window and some paint, while the library and file room in the annex will be turned into offices.

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