County continues UAS pursuit

ALPENA The development of unmanned aircraft systems services and spinoff business at Alpena County Regional Airport are still a top priority for county commissioners.

Consultant Explorer Solution is involved in luring UAS industry leaders to the area and Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Jim Klarich also is playing a significant role.

During Wednesday’s finance committee meeting the commissioners voted to recommend to the full board that Klarich be hired for the remainder of the year to continue to work with potential investors.

The county entered into a contract with Target Alpena and Klarich for $1,200 a month for the months of March, April and May, but as new relationships are formed and information exchanged, the county believed it would be wise to lock up Klarich for the remaining seven months of 2014. The service contract is for the same rate, plus travel expenses.

Chairman Lyle VanWormer said Klarich is doing a good job and although he couldn’t give specifics on potential developments, he said there is a lot of action taking place behind the scenes.

“There are still a lot of people interested in Alpena yet, despite not getting the center of excellence,” Van Wormer said. “We understand that this is taking a while, but the pursuit of the center really slowed the entire project down and set us back about nine months. We have our feet under us again though and are moving forward.”

VanWromer said development of any sort comes with a moving timeline and doesn’t happen over night. He said the county is going to rely on Explorer Solutions and Klarich to lay out potential timelines on any future projects.

“Our consultant wants to move into another phase and it will tell us where we are going and at what point to we actually get something done,” VanWormer said.

Klarich said he is glad the county understands there is a process involved into recruiting UAS business and making it a reality. He said sometimes people think the UAS project at the airport is dead, but in fact things are simmering below the surface.

“All of the conversations with potential partners are continuing and it will continue to be a long-term effort,” Klarich said. “We will continue to gauge interest and work hard. I think the county recognizes that it is a long-term effort and that is why they continue to support it the was it does.”

In other business:

* the committee approved allowing Undersheriff Terry King to advertise for bids for a new full-size van that will be used to transport multiple inmates. Bids are due by 8 a.m. on June 18. The old van will be decommissioned.

* the committee will recommend that 9:45 p.m. be the time the courthouse and annex building are locked at night. From time to time the buildings are open to allow for some meetings that are later in the evening.

* the committee will recommend to the board that a $16,667 Air Service Marketing Grant be accepted. If approved, the county’s match will be $1,666.

* the committee will recommend that the Alpena Parks Commission and fairgrounds caretaker Wes Wilder be allowed to enter into a three-year contract with Point & Pay. The company will be responsible for handing credit card payments for customers booking campsites at the fairgrounds, as well as Sunken Lake Park, Long Lake Park and Beaver Lake Park. The initial cost will be $100 for four credit card reading machines.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.