‘We’re very concerned’: Community surprised by proposal to permanently shut down Portage Municipal Airport

Published: Aug. 20, 2023 at 10:39 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The City of Portage Common Council is set to vote on the future of the Portage Municipal airport this week.

The resolution proposes to close the airport permanently, and it’s caught community members by surprise. The proposal was put on the common council’s agenda this past Friday. The vote comes this Thursday less than a week later.

“It was a surprise to us,” Portage Airport Commission Chair Barry Erath said. “We had no forewarning of this, and we’re very concerned.”

Erath said he’s been with the Portage Airport Commission for over 20 years. This is the most worried he’s been about the airport’s future.

“There’s been threats, but they’ve always been not that viable,” Erath said. “I’m concerned that this one might be the most threatening.”

Erath said there’s been little to no transparency from the city on why they’re considering shutting the airport down. He suspects the city is seeking to redevelop the land.

“This is a potential cash cow if it were to be sold,” Erath said. “I think there are some budgetary concerns going on for the city.”

Erath argues the airport is a vital part of the Portage community.

“We have businesses that operate out of here,” Erath said. “We have some people that do business that brings people in here... in the community.”

Paul Phelps, who helps lead the EAA chapter that oversees the Portage Municipal Airport, said the airport helps fuel the future of aviation.

“We have a lot of people here who’ve been around a long time and they are poised to be mentors and help these kids,” Phelps said. “We want to do something more. We want to do something bigger.”

A future that includes up and coming pilots like Aysia Lawrence.

“I love this place,” Lawrence said. “This is what got me interested in the aviation and has like fueled my passion for aviation.”

NBC15 reached out to three council members but are still waiting to hear back.

The City of Portage Common Council will vote on the proposal Thursday Aug. 24 at 7 p.m.

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