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DODGE COUNTY AIRPORT UPGRADES

Field Base Operations manager Mary Gasper is shown next to a plane outside the Dodge County Airport terminal on Wednesday. Many projects are underway this year to improve the runways and taxiways at the airport, with most of the funds coming from federal transportation grants.

JUNEAU — The Dodge County Board is on board with a six-year airport improvement plan that carries a total price tag of nearly $9 million.

That investment, approved on May 16, reflects the airport’s importance to the local economy, according to airport manager Mary Gasper.

Wisconsin Aviation manages and operates the county-owned facility, located just north of Juneau. Gasper started there in 2002 as a Wisconsin Aviation customer service rep and became the manager in 2011.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize what the airport contributes to the local economy,” she said. “WalMart required an airport nearby because they needed to be able to use it. One of the biggest contributors from a long time ago was John Deere. They used to come in all the time, and still do. There are a lot of other businesses and manufacturers that use this airport frequently and we have some corporate aircraft that are based here as well. These operations bring millions of dollars to the area.”

Online statistics indicate that for the 12-month period ending Aug. 26, 2015, the airport had 29,000 aircraft operations, an average of 79 per day: 94 percent general aviation, 3 percent air taxi and 3 percent military. In March 2018, there were 57 aircraft based at the airport, including 45 single-engine, four multi-engine, one jet and seven ultralights.

“We provide the services for pilots and aircraft,” Gasper said. “We do fueling. We hangar airplanes. We have a flight school here, so we do flight training, and people can rent the airplanes as well.”

Recent projects have been substantial, upgrading and improving many parts of the facility.

“The work that’s being done now is much needed,” Gasper said. “Last year, they did a total reconstruct of the west side of the runway. Now the east side is being rehabbed, replacing the surface. There is also a change to the taxiway on the south end of the runway and replacing the taxiway to the hangars on the north end for the runway. They’re being redone because they’re older and in need of attention. The drainage has been entirely redone because it wasn’t deep enough with the kind of soil we have here. That was one of the main reasons for the runways failing.”

Gasper explained that planes take off best when traveling into the wind. One runway allows takeoff into the wind from north/south directions, while another allows takeoff from the east and west. Pilots take off from one end or the other depending on where the wind is coming from.

Dodge County’s runways exceed the minimum 5,000-foot length required for comfortable takeoffs and landings. The airport, with its two asphalt runways, covers a total of 449 acres. The grass is mowed by John Deere, which uses the grounds as a test site for lawn care machinery built in nearby Horicon.

It is ranked as a medium-sized facility and has no control tower. The current 6,800-square-foot terminal, with a 13,500-square-foot main hangar, was built in 1996.

Lighting will be upgraded to LED, making visibility from the air much more pronounced than it has been in the past. When asked about snow accumulation in Wisconsin winters, Gasper indicated that the new lights will have built-in heaters to prevent that problem from occurring.

New carpet will be installed in the terminal during the two-week period when the runways will be closed. At that time, the intersection of the runways will be replaced. Air traffic will be diverted to airports in Watertown and Madison.

The Juneau airport will be reopened in time for the annual EAA AirVenture Fly-In in Oshkosh, scheduled for July 23-29.

“That’s our busiest time of the year,” Gasper said. “For two weeks, we have really heavy traffic.”

Beaver Dam Daily Citizen Senior Reporter