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Airport to again receive $1M grant

A record 22,980 passengers boarded flights at Ford Airport in 2019. (Daily News file photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County has again qualified for a federal grant of more than $1 million to help support Ford Airport through the pandemic.

The county in 2021 is eligible for up to $1,012, 308, Controller Brian Bousley reported during the county board’s Zoom meeting Monday.

The appropriation is part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act signed into law Dec. 27 during the final weeks of the Trump administration. In all, nearly $2 billion will be awarded to eligible U.S. airports.

This year’s funding follows a 2020 CARES Act appropriation to Ford Airport of $1.085 million. About $690,000 of that was used to pay off hangar construction borrowing, with the remainder dedicated to payroll and other expenses.

The county no longer has airport debt service to pay but will “do whatever we can” to recoup the full allocation, Bousley said. About $50,000 remains from the 2020 grant and there are still fourth-quarter expenses to submit, he added.

Another hangar project is planned, with bids to be solicited soon, though it remains to be seen if new construction will qualify for economic relief.

A record 22,980 passengers boarded commercial flights at Ford Airport in 2019. Last year’s total was down by about 50%, reflecting the trend across the U.S.

In other action, the county board:

— Heard Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Richards say she was disappointed in the board’s decision to set on-call pay for the prosecuting attorney’s office at $8 per day, which coincides with rates in the county’s Government Employees Labor Council contract. Richards said the cost of her request for the assistant prosecutors would have been about $13,000 per year. “Our prosecutors are called at all hours of the night,” she said. “We are discouraging them and people in general from being career prosecutors.”

— Reappointed Diann Gendron, Barbara Bedard and Joseph Larson to three-year terms on the Dickinson County Fair Board. The other applicants were Ashley Edwards, who received support from commissioners Joe Stevens and Barbara Kramer, and Rebecca Padgett, who received a vote from Stevens. Commissioners praised the resumes of the unsuccessful applicants and encouraged them to keep applying. “The present board members are doing a good job,” Chair Henry Wender said.

— Reappointed Robert Roberge and Kevin Pirlot to the Northpointe Behavioral Healthcare System Board for three-year terms. Pirlot, a commissioner unseated by Ann Martin in the November election, was previously serving as the board’s direct representative. A vacancy remains and will be advertised.

— Appointed Julie Wodenka to the Fumee Lake Commission for a partial term to expire in July 2023. A vacancy on that panel also remains.

— Received no applications for at least two vacancies on the planning commission and one on the library board. The openings will be readvertised.

— Accepted a report from Treasurer Lorna Carey showing a total of $272,115 earned in 2020 on investments and interest collected on delinquent property taxes. That is down from $295,345 in 2019. There was a decline in interest rates, due to the economic impact of the pandemic, Carey said. The 2019 delinquent taxes purchased in 2020 totaled $1,735,229, an increase of $15,116, she said. “We did not borrow to purchase the 2019 delinquent taxes and I am confident we will not need to borrow to purchase the 2020 delinquent taxes in 2021,” she added. The county has a revolving fund that allows it to keep other taxing units whole while it assumes the responsibility for collecting delinquent taxes and accompanying interest penalties.

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