Sawyer receives $1.1 million federal grant

K.I. SAWYER – Sawyer International Airport has received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for aircraft rescue and firefighting suits and an important runway lighting improvement project.

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing and Carl Levin, D-Detroit, announced the grant award Tuesday.

“We’re very pleased,” airport manager Duane DuRay said. “This was a highly-anticipated project. The work that is going to take place was deemed absolutely critical to a safe and reliable airport.”

The project will replace the south half of the airport’s runway circuit lighting and pave new shoulders on the runway. The bulk of the work was slated to be done this summer, but a decision was made to postpone activities until next year.

“Timelines were just going to be too hard to meet with weather and material deliveries,” DuRay said.

He said the Sands Plains area is susceptible to numerous lightning strikes, which can damage lighting at the airport, and some of the wiring for the airport runway lighting is old and needs replacement.

If the runway lights were to go out at the airport, flights would be canceled and travelers would question the reliability of the airport, DuRay said.

In April, the Marquette County Board approved contracts for the project, which DuRay said has since been scaled back a bit.

The board approval, contingent on receiving the federal money, included a $1.3 million construction contract with the Bacco Construction Co. of Iron Mountain and a $140,000 construction administration contract with Mead & Hunt Inc. of Marquette.

Phase I of the project was completed in 2012 and 2013 at a total cost of just over $1 million.

This new work constitutes Phase II.

DuRay said the sections of the project scaled back – resulting in the lower cost – included an airport master plan update and approach surveys.

Local matching costs for the project will be paid for through passenger facility charges, which are derived from a $4.50 tax charged on each departure ticket.

Funding from the grant also includes replacement of aircraft rescue and firefighter suits that were outdated.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.