Friday, July 21, 2006

FAA rejects mayors? complaints

Site selection went beyond required scope, agency says

Express Staff Writer

Mayors of Sun Valley and Ketchum were gently rebuked by the Federal Aviation Administration for complaining that the search for a new airport site was inadequate and disregarded alternatives to closing Friedman Memorial Airport.

In fact, the FAA's July 14 letter commended the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority for going beyond what was required.

"[T]hey performed not only required tasks in the project, but also provided additional products and services (not funded by the FAA grant) in an effort to be responsive to the constituents of this process," wrote J. Wade Bryant, manager of the FAA's Seattle Airports District Office.

Friedman's pro bono services included "coffee talk" meetings for citizens conducted by Airport Manager Rick Baird in Blaine, Camas and Lincoln counties; a bus tour of proposed sites; and a public forum for hundreds of citizens to explain the selection process and alternative sites.

Bryant also went to some lengths to remind Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson and Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall that it was the FAA that originally ordered the study, outlined requirements and approved the scope of the study. A proposed new airport is the result of the FAA declaring Friedman to be out of safety compliance because of larger aircraft operating there.

"This (letter) validates what the (FMAA) board has been saying all along" about the thoroughness of the study, Baird said.

In their letter to the FAA, Thorson and Hall proposed hiring their own consultants to study the FMAA study, asserting the FMAA ignored "the adverse impact" on travelers and airlines of a distant airport. Their criticisms echo complaints of Ketchum real estate executive Dick Fenton, a member of the site committee, who confirmed he helped draft the mayors' July 10 letter to the FAA.

In a separate comment, Thorson indicated he'd prefer expanding Friedman.

The FAA invited Thorson and Hall to participate in the upcoming second phase of the site study "and will consider issues such as those you raised."

Thorson called the FAA letter "pleasant" and said he is looking forward to the next phase of the site study.

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