Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Got airport questions?

Friedman officials set up series of coffee talks

Express Staff Writer

No audience is too small or too large for Friedman Memorial Airport officials to meet and explain why sites for a possible new airport to replace the Hailey field are being studied.

The largest gathering in January in the tiny town of Fairfield attracted some 200 persons at the American Legion hall to hear why one of the studied sites is in Camas County east of Fairfield.

And last Friday, airport authority chair Martha Burke and airport manager Rick Baird had another breakfast-hour meeting -- with just two people at Shorty's diner in Hailey.

It was the first of a series of early morning "coffee talks" Burke and Baird have inaugurated around the Wood River Valley region on a schedule of one every couple of weeks.

This week, Burke and Baird will be at Tully's Coffee, 601 Sun Valley Road, between 7 and 8 a.m. on Friday.

The two who showed up for last week's get-together, Jim Spinelli, head of the Hailey Chamber of Commerce, and Lynn McDonald, owner of Featherbed Inn, fired questions at Baird about the need for a new airport.

Although McDonald told Baird she thinks the airport's present location is fine, she is opposed to expansion that might lead to homes in Woodside being condemned and removed to accommodate a segment of state Highway 75 being relocated eastward.

Of the various studied sites Baird showed Spinelli and McDonald, they seemed to favor site No. 9, about a mile and a half south of the Blaine-Lincoln County line, east of state Highway 75 and about a 45-minute drive from the Ketchum area. The site is gaining support as a preferred location for a new airfield.

"People don't seem to understand that something must happen" about relocating the airport, Spinelli told Baird.

Burke wondered whether a turnout of only two people to meet her and Baird was a sign of community apathy.

Baird took the optimistic view, however, that the community "has a level of comfort" about the studies and the work of the airport authority.

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