Friday, January 12, 2007

Dispute erupts over airport construction

Issue headed to Hailey City Council

The harmony and civility that normally prevails among the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority was strained Wednesday night when consultants laid out a plan for conducting runway reconstruction work seven days a week and as late as 9 p.m. during a spring shutdown covering 30 days from late April to late May.

Authority Vice Chair Susan McBryant, the mayor of Hailey, erupted with her disapproval, suggesting she'd reached a limit routinely approving noisy nighttime work that is annoying and disruptive to nearby residents of the heavily populated Woodside neighborhood, adjacent to the airport.

The runway is beginning to deteriorate and develop potholes in spots, the result of water erosion over time of several layers of material installed some 20 years ago. The Federal Aviation Administration will pay for a virtual reconstruction of the 6,950-foot strip.

McBryant suggested shutting down work uniformly at 7 p.m., meaning construction work would be extended perhaps another week.

Despite McBryant's objections, the board voted its approval 4-1, with McBryant voting against, of construction hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weeknights, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends. Authority Chair Martha Burke, who is also a member of the Hailey City Council, voted against McBryant.

However, since the city of Hailey has jurisdiction over construction activities, the Hailey City Council will be asked at its Jan. 30 meeting to decide what hours construction work can be conducted.

Asked after the board meeting to expand on her remarks, McBryant said the airport "has always by policy endeavored to be a good neighbor," but conducting heavy construction work at night was not neighborly.

"I have a strong constituency in Woodside," she said, "and it's an outrage when you're a working person and you have no quiet time on weekends and you can sit outside in the spring."

She added: "I support fixing the airport, but it's time we draw the line" with regard to construction hours. "(People) can't count on Hailey to always be accommodating."

Airport Manager Rick Baird said shortening work hours on the runway and extending work another week probably would not add expense to the $1 million-plus project.

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