Mike’s Musings- Funds for Evart airport make no sense

March 22, 2013

Michael Wilcox, Publisher/Editor

I remember going by this sizeable airstrip in the small town of Evart a few years back. At the time I thought “wow, how does this small town have such a large airport?” The 3800 foot runway, built to handle cargo planes is impressive.

I was alerted the other day about an article in CAPCON, ie. Michigan Capitol Confidential, that says the

Evart Municipal Airport receives a federal subsidy of $150,000 a year to operate the airport. No big deal I thought until I learned that the Evart Municipal Airport has no hangars, no available fuel, no aircraft based there, no employees and an average of two flights per day.

By comparison the Clare airport has an average of fourteen flights per day and 22 planes based at the city airport. The Clare County airport in Harrison has seven flights per day and 24 planes that call the airport home.

Actually the $150k yearly subsidy pales into comparison with the $1.7 million the airport has requested over the next five years. The $1.7 would be split 3 ways- $1.073 coming from the feds, $90k from the state and the balance from local government. But then the Evart Municipal Airport is used to getting this kind of money. Since 2000, they have received $1.6 million.

One of the reasons Evart gets funds from federal sources is that it is deemed to be “significant to national air transportation.” A bill that passed Congress in 2000 created a new entitlement program for small airports. If the airport was on the FAA’s official airports list, and had a sufficient need for infrastructure improvements they would receive up to $150k a year. The money for the entitlement comes from taxes on airline tickets and airplane fuel.

“So what’s my point,” you may ask? I often wondered, since making this area my home, why every town has an airport? I watch these airports and rarely see a plane land or take off. It just seems to be a waste of someone’s money.

Granted, having an airport is a nice little amenity for any town- kinda like having a nice library or a creditable newspaper. Oops did I say newspaper? Yeah what about throwing federal funds our way? Why isn’t there an entitlement program for us?

Forget that! I’d rather keep the tax money in my pocket than allow my representatives to spread it around to whatever entitlement they feel is justified. Small airports in small towns must have their own revenue streams to at least pay for part of their upkeep. To continually subsidize an airport like Evart, that essentially has no customers is problematic.

Problematic from the standpoint that our Federal government, and to a lesser degree the State, continues to waste money on projects that don’t make any sense. Evart has lost dozens of jobs over the last few years. It is a struggling town. If the feds really want to help out, they should invest some of their entitlement money into providing more jobs and a better quality of life, rather than an airport that serves but a few.

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