Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lack of funding, usage leads to closure of Athelone Williams Memorial Airport (6G0), Davison Township, Michigan




GENESEE COUNTY, MI - Residents driving by the asphalt landing strip tucked behind a grove of trees may not even know there is an airport along Gale Road in Davison Township.

The Athelone Williams Memorial Airport has been in operation for more than 20 years, with pilots landing at the approximately 3,500-foot-long runway bordered by railroad tracks to the north and the Black Creek on its south side.

But the days of aircraft flying into the airstrip on 37 acres of land may have finally come to an end.

Township board members voted this week to close the airport, citing lack of budget funding to complete needed repairs to cracks in the runway and ongoing costs for maintenance.




The airport is named in honor of Robert Williams' mother. The property where the runway sits was donated by the Williams family decades ago with the stipulation its usage was open to the public, according to Davison Township Supervisor Karen Miller, and became a public airport in 1987.

"We've had discussions with Mr. Williams that was donated the airport to Davison Township," said Miller of discussion with Robert Williams. "We told him about finances and the usage of the airport is way down and the airstrip was in desperate need of repair at a large cost and we only have a couple pilots out there."

Williams also donated a 100-acre parcel of land off Atherton Road to Davison Township in September 2012 that's now used a nature park and learning center by the community.

"We don't have the money to repave that airstrip," said Miller. "We have over the course of years, I can think of at least three developers, that came in and had discussions, lengthy discussions, went out and even some of them put together drawings of putting in hangars and trying to make that a feasible operation."




None of those plans or discussions by township officials to build hangars on the property and pre-lease them ever came to fruition. Miller did not have a figure on how much the repaving may cost, only stating the cost would be "substantial."

The township spent $5,600 during the fiscal year 2016-17 for insurance and maintenance at the airport, according to township clerk Cindy Shields.

Casting the lone no vote, board member Matthew Karr said he was "not ready to pull the trigger on closing it" minutes before the final tally.

Treasurer Patrick Miller, who was absent from the meeting, did not cast a vote. 

Referencing previous studies done by the township on the airport, Karr noted they included the suggestion that "Once it closes, it'll never get open again" and preferred to leave the item on the agenda for next month's meeting.




But board member Tim Elkins said the township does not have the money to pay for repairs and only two pilots currently use the airport, adding a portion of the property just north of the Lake Callis Recreation Complex sits on a floodplain.

"We couldn't get anybody to invest in it," commented Elkins. "We don't have the financing for it."

There are no definite plans on what the township may utilize the property for moving forward, Miller said. 

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