Dickinson eyes Ford Airport renovation

Will hire consultant to look at terminal

(Daily News file photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County will consider a renovation of the Fontana Terminal at Ford Airport, agreeing Wednesday to hire a consultant to evaluate the current facility and future needs.

An expansion likely will be needed if the airport is to ever host larger aircraft, Controller Brian Bousley said.

The county board directed Airport Manager Tim Howen to sign a study contract with civil engineers Prein & Newhof of Grand Rapids. The $140,000 cost will be paid with federal funds and a final report is expected within seven months.

SkyWest Airlines has served as the Essential Air Service carrier at the Dickinson County airport since December 2012, operating under an EAS contract that provides an annual federal subsidy of up to $3,868,146.

A total of 15,235 passengers boarded commercial flights at Kingsford in 2021 — below the record of 22,980 in 2019 but comfortably above the threshold of 10,000 needed to be a primary airport under the Federal Aviation Administration’s funding categories. Under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, primary airports are entitled to a minimum of $1 million annually for capital needs.

Skywest, operating as a Delta carrier, uses 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft for all flights, which are daily to Detroit or Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In other airport business, the board authorized buying snow removal equipment from the low bidder, M-B Companies Inc. of Chilton, Wis., for $841,525. The equipment — a truck with broom — can be obtained with AIP entitlement funds.

Prein & Newhof is overseeing the purchase in consultation with state and federal transportation officials.

“This piece of machinery keeps us open,” Bousley said.

In other action, the board:

— Heard Bousley report that an engineering firm’s inspection of the courthouse clock tower revealed no serious issues, but two more reviews will be solicited to confirm the findings. County officials had been worried by a slight separation in the stairway, but the inspection showed “it’s not pulling away from the building,” Bousley said. After an analysis by U.P. Engineers & Architects of Iron Mountain in 2015, the county contracted with FA Industrial of Iron River for a $124,000 project to stabilize the 126-year-old structure.

— Learned from Sheriff Scott Rutter that the sheriff’s work van has resumed services, offering help to local non-profit and governmental agencies in conjunction with the corrections division and district court. Operations had been suspended the past two years due to the pandemic. “It’s been very busy,” Rutter said. “I don’t foresee it letting up any time soon. It’s working out well.”

— Approved the Dickinson County Planning Commission’s new master plan survey. Results will help the county develop its vision, goals and objectives for the next five years, Commissioner Barbara Kramer said. The survey will be posted at https://www.dickinsoncountymi.gov/ and made available through other venues. Completed surveys will be due July 22.


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