Friday, February 1, 2008

Airport relocation issue not that complicated

Len Harlig, a former member of the Blaine County Commission, lives in Blaine County near Ketchum.


Most of our Blaine County community accepts the thoroughly studied and accurately documented facts that led to the decision to relocate Friedman Memorial Airport. These sensible people fall into three general categories:

- Those full-time residents whose daily lives are directly impacted or threatened by the present airport location and its off-site noise and pollution as well as its unlimited potential for airplane accidents involving surrounding schools, homes and businesses.

- Residents and visitors whose airline travel plans are continuously interrupted, delayed or canceled because of weather and busing. That includes people who drive to Twin Falls, Boise or Salt Lake to ensure reliable service or more reasonable prices, and those who find the limited local airline availability at Friedman too restrictive.

- Informed local business owners who recognize the precarious nature of our present Skywest service when the 37-seat Embraer aircraft are no longer available, and who also recognize the potential loss of service from Horizon if the FAA's temporary permission to allow Q-400 flights at Friedman is withdrawn.

All three of these informed and thoughtful categories of residents and visitors will see their lives and/or businesses improved by the airport relocation.

There are a small number of people who continue to be vocal or written airport-relocation opponents and they also fall into three general categories:

- The under-informed who hear, read and too often believe inaccurate rhetoric from those who mistakenly oppose the airport relocation.

- Those who put their personal convenience above the safety, welfare and benefit of the rest of the community (and particularly above the residents of Hailey and Bellevue).

- The intelligent residents and second-home owners who would naturally prefer a safe, reliable airport only 15 or 20 minutes from their homes (though not necessarily adjacent to their own homes, thank you) if that type of miracle could ever be obtained in the real world.

Continued education will help those in category No. 1 to better understand the true facts and help them become part of the larger community consensus. Communication will help support the community instincts of those in category No. 3 so they are kept aware of the progress toward a new location and can fully support it.

Some type of therapeutic behavior modification may be needed for category No. 2 to help them become better community citizens and join the rest of us in working together for a new airport—before we lose all commercial service at Friedman and end up with neither commercial service there nor a new airport somewhere else.

It really isn't very complicated, after all.

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