Friday, August 5, 2005

Airport meeting with consultants gives public chance to speak

Burke: 'We'll go until breakfast if need be'

Express Staff Writer

The several hundred people expected to turn out for the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority's special Sept. 28 public hearing won't hear anything about a recommended site selection for a new airport.

The Hailey airport's governing board decided at its monthly meeting Tuesday night to hear consultants' findings on costs and physical modifications required at the present airport to meet Federal Aviation Administration safety compliance standards. The board at the Aug. 2 meeting also decided to invite public comments and reserve any decision on whether and where to build a new airport for a future meeting.

Mindful that questions and comments might run for several hours, Airport Authority Chairwoman Martha Burke said "we'll go until breakfast if need be."

The meeting begins at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 28, at the Community Campus at the former Wood River High School in Hailey.

"There are no more critical infrastructure issues in our community than this one," said board member Len Harlig. Reminding fellow board members that discussing a new airport has been a community issue since a 1990 study, Harlig said, "I won't be ready to make a selection (of an airport site) without the public making comment."

Authority attorney Barry Luboviski agreed, adding, "People are more likely to come if they think they have a chance to comment. Technical data is going to be helpful to the community. One more month (in the selection process) is really immaterial."

Airport consulting firms Mead & Hunt and Toothman-Orton were given a tentative green light by the board for the format of its presentation.

One section will be devoted to explaining the purpose for studying a possible new airport site,

The next section will explain airport design standards and Friedman's airspace environment, augmented with graphics to show what would occur to the area if Friedman Memorial were expanded to the east, to the west or to the south, including possible costs.

The final section will focus on the study of possible alternate sites for a new airport, comparative costs and how the citizens site selection committee arrived at three recommended finalist sites.

During Tuesday's meeting, one of the persistent critics of the site study's methods and parameters, Ketchum real estate executive Dick Fenton, appealed to the authority to also include information on "minimum revenue guarantees" (subsidies) that he says airlines would need to operate profitably from a field distant from Hailey.

Fenton, who represented the city of Ketchum and the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau on the site committee, said information on such guarantees could be developed. However, the board and consultants have argued that that data 10 years or more away would involve unknowns, such as the size of a new airport, what sort of aircraft airlines would then be operating, fuel and crew costs and airport fees.

The board did not indicate whether Fenton's request would be granted.

During the meeting, Airport Manager Rick Baird also showed the board an overview of the existing 230-acre airport with a redlined area showing the 102 acres deeded to the city of Hailey by the Friedman family early in the 1900s.

The fate of that land has been the topic of recent speculation by the public—whether the land would revert to the Friedman family if the airport were relocated or it were operated as an auxiliary field just for smaller general aviation and corporate aircraft.

Also in that speculation is the fate of some 90 acres of land bought with FAA funds: Would it need to be sold?

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