Monday, July 9, 2018

Mayor's Monday: Wisconsin Rapids' Zach Vruwink

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, WI (WSAU) -- Improvements to the Wisconsin Rapids Municipal Airport, Alexander Field, are moving along this summer according to Mayor Zach Vruwink.

He joined WSAU's Mike Leischner from the airport for this week's Mayor's Monday, saying that the $6 million in upgrades over the last few years are already paying dividends for the facility and the taxpayers who support it, not only in user fees but in the revenue from fuel sales as well. "The taxpayers are actually receiving a benefit by the traffic directly. They contribute to the operations of the airport," said Vurwink.

He says if current growth continues the facility could become revenue-neutral or even positive, which would mean taxpayer subsidies would no longer be needed. "It's something I'm very interested in, I think it would be a win all around for taxpayers and users alike. It keeps our costs down, and will save taxpayers money in the long run."

Fuel sales at the airport are currently up over 300% from the first half of 2017 and over one thousand percent from the same period in 2016. Vurwink attributes much of that growth to the expanded popularity of the Sand Valley Golf Club in the nearby Town of Rome, which advertises the Wisconsin Rapids facility as a landing point for guests who want to fly in privately to play at their courses.

Vruwink says the airport has always been busy serving the pulp and paper industry in the area, however with the addition of tourism traffic the added space to park the regional jets became a necessity. "[We're talking] some of the regional-sized jets you might see at a commercial airport. Configured, obviously, for fewer passengers, but nonetheless large planes." He adds that from Wisconsin Rapids the planes go on to locations throughout the United States such as California and Florida and even international destinations like Puerto Rico.

Alexander Field is jointly owned by four municipalities- the Cities of Wisconsin Rapids and Nekoosa, the Village of Port Edwards, and Town of Grand Rapids. Upgrades currently in progress include a new taxiway, a resurfacing project for the second runway, and added apron space which will allow for more parking for larger aircraft.

Many of the improvements are being funded through $6 million in funding from both the state and the federal government.

Other topics Vruwinnk discussed with WSAU's Mike Leischner include (Timestamped):

Start of video: the history of the airport and overview of the in-progress improvements

2:00- Volume of traffic at the airport recently

6:11- Potential for the airport to become a self-sustaining facility

7:25- State and federal investments in the project

8:30- Update on recreational projects in town

9:23- Improvements to Aspirus hospital near the river

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