STEPHENSON — The Menominee County Board voted Wednesday to keep land leases at the Menominee Regional Airport intact at 20 cents per square foot. 

On the agenda were the options for new land leases staying at 20 cents per square foot, or going up to 25 cents or 30 cents per square foot.  

Commissioner Larry Schei motioned for the land leases to remain at 20 cents per square foot for now. Commissioner Jerry Piche asked what the reasoning was for remaining at 20 cents.

Schei said he had asked their attorney for an opinion and the attorney said it was a business decision, so he couldn’t say.

“If we raise it at the same time we’re trying to get leases signed ... there could be some issues,” Schei said. “I think that to be safe for this first year, we should leave it at 20 cents a square foot, which it has been.”

He added that there is a cost of living index in the new lease, however, and once the new leases are signed, the cost of living index could be looked at next year. None of the new leases have been signed yet, he added, and it might take through the second quarter to get all the leases signed and transferred to the ownership in the new name of the airport.

“My recommendation and the recommendation of the airport manager is to leave it as is for the time being,” Schei said. 

Commissioner Larry Phelps disagreed.

“I just can’t understand why we can’t fundamentally increase this — it’d be a dime — 1700 square feet, that’s $170 a year,” Phelps said.

He said if the lessees can afford to fly planes, they wouldn’t move to Oconto over a dime a square foot. 

“I think it can be done,” Phelps said. “It’s got to be run like a business.”

Commissioner Steve Gromala agreed with Schei that the price should remain at 20 cents, saying that having surveyed other airports in the Upper Peninsula, Menominee isn’t any lower than other regional airports and in fact is higher than a few. Due to their location, he said, it makes sense. If the location was Detroit or Ann Arbor, a higher rate would be easily understood, Gromala said. 

“One of the big things is the fact that our next lease agreements will have the cost of living increase capabilities, so we won’t be shortchanging ourselves,” he added. “I feel this is the best way to go about this,” Gromala said. 

Phelps reiterated that it wasn’t moving the airport forward.

“When I have people telling me they’re not going anywhere over rates like that, you take advantage of that,” he said. “I pay more than some of these people to store my golf cart.”

Commissioner Charlie Meintz agreed with Phelps that the rates should be raised.

“It makes better business sense,” Meintz said. “There’s lots of fantastic amenities they get with operating their plane on sight and there is some truth to what Larry (Phelps) said.”

With a roll call vote and commissioner Bill Cech excused, commissioners Schei, Gromala, Piche, Jan Hafeman and Bernie Lang agreed to keep the land leases at 20 cents per square foot. Commissioners Phelps, Meintz and John Nelson voted against the rate staying the same. 

The motion passed with the new land leases remaining at 20 cents per square foot.