2012-03-01 / News

Airport deer culling program end date in question

By Krista Tacey-Cater

During the monthly Roscommon County Blodgett Memorial Airport meeting on Feb. 24, Mike Blasky, a property owner near the airport, requested an update on the status of the deer culling program the Roscommon County Board of Commissioners approved in June, 2011.

Blasky wanted to know if the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services still had the authority to shoot deer that may be on the airport’s runway. He said he would not like to see deer shot at this time because does are now pregnant. He added because of the season it is difficult to tell if a deer is male or female.

Commissioner Marc Milburn (District 4) said it was never his intention to cull deer during the winter months for the reasons Blasky had cited. He added that is why the original motion made in June 2011 stated that the culling would begin in July when it is clear if a deer is a doe or a buck. The only issue with the motion Milburn stated is that an end date was never set to stop the culling program.

The original motion made by the county commission moved to “allow the USDA Wildlife Services to cull deer (20 antlerless only) on the Roscommon County Blodgett Memorial Airport commencing July 5, 2011...”

During the airport meeting, Milburn made a motion to terminate the deer culling program until a motion was made by the Roscommon County Board of Commissioners to either continue on with the program or end it.

For lack of support Milburn’s motion failed.

Roscommon County Commission Chairman Bob Schneider said in a Feb. 27 telephone interview because Milburn’s motion failed “there’s nothing to talk about right now” at the commissioner’s level. He said if a motion is supported by the airport committee itself then he would entertain movement by the commission. He said there is question as to when the program ends and if the remaining 13 deer permits are valid.

“We need to get it clarified at the (airport) committee level,” Schneider said before the commissioners will act on a new motion.

Schneider said he suggests the airport committee look into the issues in question on its own and hold a special meeting to discuss the problems at hand.

In other news, the extension of the airport’s taxiway is currently on hold as there needs to be a wetland environmental mitigation plan completed to either create or preserve wetland that would be lost in the expansion process.

During the Feb. 8 Roscommon County Board of Commissioners meeting Airport Manager Eric Jaroch gave the county commissioners an update on the project’s progress.

He said the number one reason for pursuing the taxiway extension was “safety, safety, safety.”

He added the project is part of the airport’s 10 year project development plan and the project has to be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. He said a second application must be sent to the EPA outlining a wetland mitigation plan.

In an effort to get the mitigation plan rolling an option to purchase agreement was drafted with property owners Ralph and Barbara Harris and Roscommon County. The agreement outlines the county’s desire to purchase 240 acres of property near the airport from the Harris family for wetland preservation.

Jaroch said during the Feb. 24 airport meeting that if the EPA does accept the application then there would be plans to “go on with the actual purchase.”

Once the purchase is made the plan for the property would be to preserve the land forever under a mitigation plan provided by Huron Pines .

“It has to remain in its current state forever...it can’t be developed,” Jaroch said.

Once the mitigation plan is completed, Jaroch said then the taxiway expansion project would begin. He said the project has been in the works for two years and he hopes it will be completed during 2012.

The project would be funded through three entities, including 95% of the funds coming from the Federal Aviation Administration and 2.5% each coming from the Michigan Department of Aeronautics and Roscommon County. According to the airport’s 10 year airport capital improvement program the total cost of the project would be $1.2 million.

The next airport meeting is scheduled for March 23 at 1:30 p.m. if a meeting is deemed necessary. If there is not a March meeting held the April meeting is scheduled for April 25.

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