Apr 08

City airport unique, operating at highest standard!

Posted on April 8, 2022 at 2:56 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

Six men wearing jeans & blue shirts or black jackets, standing in front of yellow airport snow plow. Airplanes on pavement behind them. Blue sky.

Photo: Standing in front of an airport snow plow are the airport teammates certified to do our FAA inspections: (from left) David Erhart, John Gray, Jonathon Young, Mitch Dadow, Jim Tobias, Chuck Orr

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The city’s Battle Creek Executive Airport at Kellogg Field is unique in many ways, and one of those is its most recent Federal Aviation Administration inspection – which it passed in mid-December 2021.

Because BTL – the shorthand for the airport – does not offer commercial service, the FAA does not require document and field checks. The state would typically handle that for us. But new Interim Aviation Director Philip Kroll said there are several reasons why BTL chooses to receive these annual inspections – backlogged due to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Helps us comply with requirements for grants we receive
  • Makes it easy for us to keep following airport safety requirements
  • Helps us identify any problems, and keep up with records

“Being the third busiest airport in the state, we are holding ourselves to the highest federal standard,” Kroll said. “Even though we don’t have commercial service, we want to meet that safety standard.”

BTL’s late 2021 document inspection found three technical issues to correct – but with no legal enforcement necessary – we were a month off checking specific field lights within six months of each other; we have to ensure proof of Battle Creek Fire Department Airport Rescue Fire Fighting training (much different than typical firefighting), and we have some staff behind on field driving training (staff including airport tenants, like Duncan Aviation and WACO Aircraft). The airport corrected all of these issues in February 2022.

We have not received an FAA inspection of the air field since 2019, with no major issues at that time. Kroll doesn’t know yet when BTL will get its next field inspection.

But that inspection involves doing what our airport team does every day – someone must drive around the roughly 1,260-acre airfield to inspect every light, sign, and piece of pavement. Once a week they do the same check at night. They will do special inspections due to weather, or a problem with a plane (like it lands, and pops a tire).

The daily inspection typically takes an hour or two, and most of the BTL staff can do it; they must have FAA training and certification.

“They assess what they find,” Kroll said. “If it’s an immediate action, like a pavement crack where an aircraft could lose control, they would get the crack sealant out there to fix the problem.”

They might have to remove a piece of trash, cut grass in an area where it has grown too tall, or fix a pothole caused by a lightning strike.

While airports are all similar, they all have a unique layout and factors that dictate their operations and inspections. The FAA checks an airport’s certification manual, unique compliance document, training records, emergency plans, snow and ice plan, wildlife management plan, and other documents critical to operating an airport safely.

The city’s Battle Creek Executive Airport has operated for nearly a century, and also is home to the Western Michigan University College of Aviation, the Battle Creek Air National Guard, and 55 private tenants. With many recent business expansions around the airport, and consideration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems drone operations, it is an incredible city asset, and important to our economic development. Learn more at flybtl.com.

Paved airport taxiway with yellow stripe down middle. B 31 sign to left. Grass to left and far end.

BTL airport taxiway - every day our team inspects the signs, pavement, pavement markings, and lights to make sure they meet FAA regulations.

 Drifts and arcs of snow with airport blow shadowed in the middle.

Snow plowing doesn't just happen on city streets! The BTL team must remove snow from runways, taxiways, and ramps, and update pilots throughout every snow storm.

Feb 27

Back on the agenda: Traffic control + Territorial/28th Street

Posted on February 27, 2022 at 11:15 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

On Feb. 15, the City Commission tied the vote on whether to make new stop signs on Territorial Road at 28th Street permanent. By city ordinance, a tie vote is a defeat. We removed the stop signs that Thursday, Feb. 17, adding signs to the 28th Street stop signs, saying that cross traffic (on Territorial) does not stop.

This issue is coming back to the City Commission agenda this Tuesday night, March 1. The short of it is that the commission could take a new vote on the issue. If they do, the intersection could stay as it is now, or we could be putting the stop signs back on Territorial. Keep reading to learn how this could happen.

Neighborhood intersection with stop sign on corner; street signs for Territorial Road and 28th St.

The issue comes back to the agenda at Vice Mayor Kaytee Faris's request (she was absent from the Feb. 15 meeting). You will see the item on the agenda under the heading "Commission Comment Regarding Meeting Business." The agenda item is a motion to rescind the Feb. 15 vote, and present it to the commission at the March 1 meeting for a new vote.

This doesn't happen very often, so we want to break down what could happen at the March 1 meeting (assuming all nine commissioners are there):

  • Any of the commissioners could make the motion to rescind the Feb. 15 vote and add a new vote to the March 1 agenda. It does not have to be Vice Mayor Faris, and it does not matter how a commissioner voted on the original vote.
  • If that motion does not get support from a second commissioner on March 1, the issue will stop there.
  • If commissioners move and second the issue, they will vote on it. If it fails, the Feb. 15 vote stands, and the intersection will stay as it is now. If it passes (at least five yes votes), the Feb. 15 vote on the stop signs is canceled, and the commission will have a new vote on the issue that evening. 
  • If there is a new vote, and at least five commissioners vote yes, that would mean we put the stop signs back on Territorial, making the intersection an all-way (four-way) stop permanently.

This started with a neighbor request in July 2021. Our Traffic team investigated the intersection and made a temporary traffic control order - for 90 days - as allowed by ordinance. The intersection became a four-way stop in November 2021. By our ordinance, the city commission votes on whether to make this type of order permanent, which led to the Feb. 15 vote.

Another item on the commission's March 1 agenda relates to the way the traffic control order process works. The commission will vote on whether to introduce an ordinance that would give the Director of our Department of Public Works the authority (with City Manager approval) to put in place some types of traffic control - including stop signs and yield signs at intersections. The commission would still vote on traffic issues like one-way streets, and extending a no-parking zone more than one block.

Tune in to the March 1 city commission meeting starting at 7 p.m. This meeting is in person at City Hall, 10 N. Division St. To give public comment, you must attend in person. You also can email your comments to CityClerk@battlecreekmi.gov before the meeting. The Clerk's Office will share those with commissioners, but will not read them at the meeting. You also can watch the meeting on AccessVision cable 17/917 or at the Live 17 tab at accessvision.tv. We also live stream commission meetings on the City of Battle Creek YouTube channel.

Feb 10

Traffic orders + 28th and Territorial stop signs

Posted on February 10, 2022 at 2:36 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

At the beginning of November 2021, the city's Department of Public Works placed stop signs at the intersection of North 28th Street and Territorial Road, making it an all-way stop - a four-way stop, in this case.

At the time we did this, it was a temporary traffic order, which is allowed by city ordinance. A temporary traffic order can be in place for 90 days. At that point, the City Commission must vote on it. If they approve, the change becomes permanent. If they disapprove, we remove the signs/signal, and the area returns to how it worked before. The commission will vote on whether to make the 28th/Territorial stop signs permanent at the Tuesday, Feb. 15 regular meeting. The meeting is in person at City Hall, 10 N. Division St., starting at 7 p.m. To give official public comment, you must attend in person, or email CityClerk@battlecreekmi.gov before the meeting.

This particular traffic change started with a request from a neighbor who lives near the intersection, thought the number of crashes was excessive, and saw kids having to run across Territorial to avoid traffic (there are several schools near this area). We studied the intersection, and found that the number of crashes did allow for installing the stop signs. We follow Federal Highway Administration codes, and there are factors to consider to make an all-way stop. The number of crashes at 28th and Territorial met that criteria, with six T-bone crashes from 2017-2020. These are the types of crashes an all-way stop can help prevent.

If you want to request a traffic change, you can start with our Traffic team at the Department of Public Works. Call 269-966-3343. Before you call, please take a look at the information below, to learn if Public Works is the place to go with your concern.  When we get your request, if it is a city street and the Traffic team has not already studied it, they will look into your concern, and see if we can do something to help the situation.

We want to address some of the themes neighbors brought up when we shared the news about the new stop signs at 28th and Territorial. We know that when we make one change, you might have questions about other areas in the city.

  • Some of you asked about speeding in different areas. That is a police issue, and there a couple of ways to share your speeding concern with Battle Creek Police. We have an online reporting portal for non-emergency issues like this, and police encourage you to use it. Start at battlecreekmi.gov/police, and scroll to "Report a Crime" in red under the main photo. If you do not have internet access, or prefer to do this by phone, call the non-emergency number at 269-781-0911, or BC Police at 269-966-3356. Please leave your contact information if you want police to get back with you about your concern. When they receive your speeding concern, they will make sure patrol officers and supervisors know about it.

  • Some of you asked about traffic signals and signs on roads or at intersections controlled by the Michigan Department of Transportation. MDOT has a Transportation Service Center in Marshall, and you can contact them with your concerns about state roads - 269-789-0560. We are part of MDOT's Southwest Region, and you can get more contact information for that office and the Marshall TSC at this MDOT website. Some examples of areas that MDOT controls:
    • Goguac and Helmer / Territorial and Helmer (Helmer is a state road)
    • Bedford and Morgan (Bedford is a state road)
    • 28th and Columbia / 20th and Columbia (Columbia is a state road)
    • 20th and Dickman (Dickman is a state road)
  • Some of you asked about speed bumps and stop signs in different areas. The Traffic team will investigate the following:
    • Four-way stop at Sherman and Garrison
    • Stop signs for the city's portion of West Goguac
    • Speed bumps on LaVista
    • Four-way stop at Geneva and Taylor
    • Speed bumps on Chestnut
    • Four-way stop at Harris and Normal
    • Extending the double-yellow line on Upton, near Dickman
  • There are two areas you asked about that the Traffic team already has studied:
    • Stop signs at Territorial and LaVista. This intersection did not meet the criteria for an all-way stop.
    • Stop signs on Highland Boulevard, to address speeding. By law, the city cannot install stop signs to reduce traffic speeds. However, the Traffic team has studied Highland traffic speeds related to speed humps. The speeds were too low for us to consider installing them.

Please contact the Department of Public Works with any questions - 269-966-3343. You can always contact the city generally at 269-966-3311 or PublicInput@battlecreekmi.gov.