The Airport at risk; what were we thinking?
The primary election of August 6th produced mixed results. St. James Township approved a quarter mill for the Historical Society, for which it is immensely grateful. Hurt by a lack of time in which to campaign, Rich Gillespie lost by ten votes in his bid to return to the Charlevoix County Commission (he virtually swept Beaver Island, though), and Tina Morgan outpolled Donna Kubic to become the Peaine Township Treasurer. And the Township Airport millage failed by eight votes.
Most observers feel this last result reflected a lack of information about why the Township Airport's continued improvement is an important piece of the puzzle in the effort to raise our economic prospects and quality of life. Beyond the direct importance of allowing planes whose pilots don't feel comfortable at the private airport to land, there are other factors supporting the value of this larger and more developed landing field. One is simply protection against the possibility of losing Island Airways; while we all hope this never happens, we shouldnt leave ourselves without an option, just in case.
Another is the safety issue. With its AWAS (automated weather system) and NBD (radio direction finder), the Township Airport provides a reliable beacon to all planes heading to Beaver Island. If one wanting to land at the private airport loses its clarity, it can always be bailed out by the Township Airport. The medical emergency flights requiring Northflight's air ambulance from Traverse City won't land at the private airport, which doesn't meet their requirements. If Island Airways planes or pilots are unavailable, or if the weather is particularly bad, the public airport must be used. This happens a few times each year.
Thankfully, the airport millage will be back on the ballot in November. Beaver Island has worked hard to position itself for a dramatic leap forward in its economic viability. With all the other pieces gradually falling into placethe new pavement; the improved boat and dock; the new internet provider; the new businessesit would be a shame if we dropped the ball by failing to support this necessary ingredient to an upgraded big picture.
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