EAST TAWAS – The East Tawas City council voted to allocate $1,874 to the Iosco County Airport from city funding on Nov. 15, based on a recommendation by county controller/financial director, Jaime Carruthers-Soboleski.
The funds are to go towards paying Jay Samuel’s $15,000 salary. Samuels is currently a volunteer, but the county would like to hire him on part time.
This new amount is significantly less compared to the original $5,000 price tag split between Tawas City, East Tawas and Baldwin twp. Now, the new price is split between the 13 municipalities in Iosco County.
This new method of pricing is based on concerns raised by the three original municipalities who raised objections based on the fact the airport is a county one, and therefore the rest of the county should contribute.
Not all funding is equal. Soboleski said she factored pricing with a weighted average based on “80% distance from the airport, 10% population, 10% taxable value.” If all municipalities had to pay equally, the cost would be $1154.
What the distribution of cost will be and whether all of the cities will pay remains to be seen, as boards meet at different times. Soboleski said she would rather hold off on telling the press what the individual amounts are. She wants to give all boards a chance to personally see the requested amount before voting.
“So, what happens if some of those don’t agree, will we come back and adjust that rate?” asked council member Lisa Bolen.
Soboleski she said the amount requested is final and regardless of other municipalities’ decisions, the county won’t come back asking for more.
“Any bit that we can get will help and will help us know what we can compensate Jay,” said Soboleski.
This funding is only requested as a “band aid” solution, meant to pay Jay for his work for this year alone, but more needs to be done to create a permanent position for an airport manager.
“Jay and I are looking at some long term goals and solutions to this issue,” said Soboleski. “Commonly, it looks like from the research we’ve done, most municipal airports aren’t self-sustaining, many government operations aren’t. They need to be supported by tax dollars. For example, Ogemaw County Airport receives an appropriation from the city of West Branch and Ogemaw County.”
Since 2016, the county has appropriated around $213,000 to the airport, according to Soboleski.
As far as benefit to the community goes, Soboleski said there hasn’t been any recent report on the Airport. However, an MDOT study from 2016 estimates the airport brings in $330,000 to the local economy, said Soboleski. How exactly MDOT came up with that, she’s not sure but she does know the airport provides its main income from tourism.
Council member Dave Leslie said “It just seems to me as if the commissioners, when you have an $8 million budget, and you’re looking for $15,000 to pay a volunteer, it just seems pretty difficult for me to understand how all the department heads can’t shave that little bit out of their budget to have this.”
He then reflected on how he used to be involved with the flying club and the amount of fuel revenue used to be able to pay this amount easily.
In other news, park manager Eric Braun reported a new roof on one of the softball storage sheds that “doesn’t catch your eye for the wrong reasons.”
City Manager Brent Barringer reported a gap in communication between the police department and medical emergencies. Apparently, when 911 dispatch receives a call, they make reports to fire, medical or police, but not all three for any single situation.
“I think the general public’s understanding of that is our police department would be dispatched or at least aware of any one of those three calls or situations, and it is not the case.”
There is no official channel for communication between medical and police. Police are made aware of fires.
Some officers have a smartphone app on their that notifies them of a medical emergency, but that’s the extent of it. Barringer said the city is now working with central dispatch to rectify the situation.
“If they’re delayed (EMS), there’s no one there. If we have an ambulance that is a shortage in the county at a particular time, our fire department works as their backup, and our fire department has an objective to respond and hold down the situation until an ambulance gets there.”
However, if a police officer is in the area, there’s no official instruction or procedure to dispatch them on scene. It doesn’t mean they don’t have a role to provide emergency services, but they’re in the process of getting dispatch to notify police on a more official channel.
The police are trained in emergency care and are qualified to administer aid if there’s no other emergency services nearby.