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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Town Stephenson Hosts Airport Info Meet June 2

The Stephenson Township Plan Commission will hold a public information meeting on Monday, June 2 to review the benefits of obtaining state funding for the Crivitz Airport. The funds that would be obtained come through the Federal Aviation Agency and are generated by taxes on airplane fuel and other flight-related fees, much as highways are funded by taxes on gasoline. The Crivitz Airport, located on county W three miles southwest of the Village of Crivitz, is owned and maintained by the Town of Stephenson.

It has been an asset to the Town and surrounding community since 1946, and is the only public-use airport in Marinette County. In addition to use by private pilots, the airport is used for DNR fire fighting planes and emergency medical flights. However, over the years some town residents have objected to the airport. There were even suggestions to turn it back into farm fields and plant potatoes. It turns out that is not possible for various reasons, including that part of the land was given to the own with a reversionary clause in which it will go back to the original owners if ever it ceases to be a publicly owned airport.

Funding from state and federal air transportation sources is available to purchase equipment to remove snow from the runways, cut grass, and maintain the airport and runways. In addition, there is maintenance needed on both runways and existing buildings in order to keep the airport functioning properly. We are not looking at expanding the airport, Plan Commission Chair Dave Anderson said.

Currently all operating and other expenses at the airport are paid for by the Town of Stephenson, aided by donations from a local citizens group, Friends of the Crivitz Airport (FOCA); there is also income from hangar rental space, personal property tax from hangar owners, and timber sales. State funds were obtained in 2005 ($100,000) and 2006 ($35,000) to perform needed improvements at the airport, but since then the town has not applied for funding and grants that would have been available were given to other airports. The funds were mainly used for runway resurfacing. There has been no runway expansion in recent years.

Anderson said grant funds are available each year for all airports. These are not funded from local taxes. This grant program was started just after World War II. These are federal funds which are passed through the State to individual airports and come from passenger ticket taxes, freight taxes, fuel taxes or other aviation-related fees. These funds cannot be used for operating expenses, but are for purchase of maintenance equipment or projects of not less than $25,000 and upgrades of equipment.

These are grants not loans, and would only have to be repaid if projects were not completed or if the airport were to close prior to the normal depreciation of any equipment purchased.

FOCA spokesmen state that funds or no funds, the town absolutely could not be forced to expand the airport.

If the town does not apply for the airport funding, all costs to maintain the airport would have to be borne by the town and its taxpayers. The airport is required to be maintained in proper operating condition.

Asked how the airport affects Town of Stephenson taxpayers, FOCA spokesmen explained, Our airport is a community asset which helps bring business and revenue to our town, potentially holding down tax increases. Obtaining grant funding will not increase our taxes, but will help to offset future town expenses and potential tax increases. Not obtaining funding leaves the entire burden on the Town and local taxpayers.

Anderson said other questions will be answered at the meeting, including cost and budgeting issues, and airport usage. This will be one of perhaps three informational meetings to discuss the airport issues, and plans are to hold at least one of the meetings on a weekend for the convenience of property owners who do not live in the town. The Plan Commission has been asked to collect information, and perhaps make a recommendation to the town board, but is not authorized to make binding decisions.


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