Runway rehab: Blacker Airport to receive $801,000 grant for capital project

The Manistee County Blacker Airport was recently awarded a grant for $801,750 to complete its runway rehab project. (News Advocate File Photo)

MANISTEE COUNTY — The Manistee County Blacker Airport was recently awarded a federal grant for $801,750 to complete its highly anticipated project to improve its runway.

On Monday, the Airport Authority approved a recommendation to the Manistee County Board of Commissioners to sign a $913,078 contract with Rieth-Riley Construction Co. to rehabilitate the airport’s aging runway.

County commissioners will have a chance to review the contract, and if approved, plans will be in place with Rieth-Riley for a long-awaited rehab project from Sept. 9-18.

A motion to approve the agenda item was made by authority member Mark Bergstrom, supported by Gerry Haw. It was unanimously approved. Authority members Karen Goodman and Andrew Gentile were not present.

Barry Lind, Manistee County Blacker Airport director, said the runway is now hitting the 20-year mark, which is well overdue for an update. The contract includes the installation of airfield pavement markings, as well.

“Our runway has a surface treatment called PFC, which is called porous friction course, about a three-quarter inch to one inch top layer that is porous and lets water seep in so there’s no water ponding on top of the pavement,” Lind stated.

“That layer is expected to last about 15 years,” he added. “It’s basically at the point of needing replacement because when it starts failing, it starts peeling off; that creates debris on the runway that jet engines can suck in and cause damage to aircraft.”

Recently, the Manistee County Blacker Airport as well as 127 other airports nationwide were awarded Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants to cover project costs. Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids also received funds at $14 million for airport infrastructure.

There were 2,652 applicants requesting funds from this round of AIP grants, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“We were one of three in the State of Michigan to get this grant. They were really looking for projects that were ‘shovel ready’,” Lind said. “They had the first round of (AIP) grants last summer, and this is their second round of grants under that program.”

The project is estimated at $1 million, but Lind said funds awarded do not account for roughly $200,000 for additional project costs. Lind said they are in the process of identifying these funds.

“The bid was just north of $913,000, but then there are some other costs that are not a part of that specific bid (from Rieth-Riley),” Lind said. “Now we have to shuffle where the remaining $200,000 is going to come from.”

During the construction process, Lind said the airport will be closed for no more than 10 days.

“Our original plan — because we applied (for the grant) back in October — we were thinking by the end of December that we would know, and planned to do the construction by this month,” Lind said. “This process of receiving feedback on the grant got delayed, so we postponed it to after the summer.

“We can’t afford to have the airport closed for a week plus, during our peak season. As part of the bid package our expectations are that crews will be working double shifts.”


Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or

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