Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Airport officials sign $300,000 ?tree? deal

10-year pact allows airport lights on ranch

Express Staff Writer

Attorneys for Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey and the nearby Flying Hat Ranch on Monday finally approved wording of an agreement allowing installation of solar-power obstruction lights in cottonwood trees near the airport that will yield $300,000 to the ranch's Eccles family over the pact's 10-year life.

Friedman Memorial Airport Authority Chairwoman Martha Burke signed for the airport, and Marc Reinemann, a representative of Spencer Eccles, signed for the Eccles interests.

The agreement allows Friedman Memorial to install lights in the cottonwoods and to access the property to maintain the lights. Lights are required since the airport extended the runway by 600 feet, thus lowering the descent altitude of approaching aircraft over the trees that are considered obstructions in the regulated air space.

Signing the agreement had been delayed since it was initially unveiled at a special authority meeting on Oct. 24, when several board members took issue with some wording. A planned meeting Oct. 27 to approve a revised draft was canceled while more tweaking was undertaken.

Until the document was approved, contents of the draft were withheld from public distribution.

However, the Mountain Express learned that the two sticking points centered on whether and how the authority would be held liable for impact of the lights on the ranch.

In the original draft, a clause was interpreted as being a de facto admission in advance of airport liability. That was changed to require a court to decide whether the tree lighting and maintenance had an impact.

The other wording that was changed involved the right of the Eccles interests to seek damages at any time during the 10-year agreement, the Mountain Express was told. That clause now provides that the $30,000 annual payment will be considered as total compensation for any real or perceived negative impact.

Left unanswered in the agreement is whether it would be extended or revised if Friedman Memorial hasn't closed and been relocated to a new distant site in 10 years, as has been tentatively planned.

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