Wednesday, July 12, 2006

County still says no to airport expansion

Express Staff Writer

The answer is still "No" to suggestions that Friedman Memorial Airport be expanded rather than a new airport be built farther south in Blaine County.

That unwavering, explicit decision was the heart Tuesday of a letter from the Blaine County Commission to mayors of Sun Valley and Ketchum, who last week wrote the Federal Aviation Administration asking for the airport site selection process be delayed for 60 to 90 days.

Blaine County and the city of Hailey own and are responsible for operating Friedman through a five-member airport authority.

Signed by the three Blaine County commissioners, the letter to Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall and Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson said the commissioners were "surprised and somewhat disappointed" by the appeal to the FAA, saying it "undermines the work that the community accomplished over the past years to sift through and overcome specious arguments heard throughout the airport relocation process."

The mayors' letter, the commission wrote, "will complicate other regional issues" that the commissioners did not identify.

Continuing, the commissioners wrote, "We believe that you would have come to a different opinion on the entire process had you engaged in a dialogue with community leaders who have a more balanced view of the airport issue and take a broader-context approach."

That apparently is an oblique slap at Thorson and Hall for lack of participation in the yearlong site selection study. Thorson attended several meetings as a spectator. Hall attended one.

In the letter to the FAA, Thorson and Hall repeated arguments real estate broker Dick Fenton made repeatedly to the airport's governing board during personal appearances—that a distant airport would discourage airline service and passengers and that adequate study had not been made of expanding Friedman or locating the airport nearby in the Bellevue Triangle. The mayors told the FAA they would pay for a new study, presumably more to the liking of critics.

In their letter, the Blaine commissioners repeated an earlier position that "physical characteristics of the valley preclude our existing airport ever reaching full compliance with FAA safety standards."

They added: "(I)nvesting millions of dollars in the current location does not serve our community's best interest and would be both short-sighted from a business standpoint and counter-productive to the goal of providing safe and reliable long-term air service..."

The FAA has declared Friedman out-of-compliance with safety requirements for larger aircraft now using the field and, in effect, is operating with FAA indulgence as the result of good-faith attempts to find a new site.

Commissioners appealed to Thorson and Hall to "work within the community framework and not apart from it" to "consider a more comprehensive regional economic development plan."

In response to the letter, Mayor Thorson said, "I don't see any difficulty having a study vetted and hear what a pro says is right or wrong about it," a reference to wanting a second opinion on Friedman's recommendation to build a new airport.

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2021 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.