Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cities urge immediate placement of airport authority

Conn requests quick setup

Express Staff Writer

Charles Conn

It took only a few minutes Monday for Ketchum City Councilman Charles Conn to sail through a briefing for his colleagues about the creation and makeup of a new airport authority recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission to govern a replacement facility for Friedman Memorial Airport.

Conn crisply ticked off the essentials of the proposed new authority—how it would be appointed, how it would include a general aviation representative, that members must be valley residents, and that the authority would report to the Blaine County Commission, sponsor of the new airport. Friedman is now jointly "owned" by the county and the city of Hailey.

However, he said, he and Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich had argued before the Blue Ribbon Commission that the new authority should be appointed immediately so it could participate in planning a new airfield, and not wait until a new airport is authorized and built by the current Friedman airport authority.

The current board, which will discuss and presumably adopt the commission's recommended governance structure, has said it would not turn airport affairs over to a new authority, but probably make it a temporary advisory group.

Spotting airport authority member Len Harlig in the back of the Ketchum council chamber, Conn asked whether his summary was a fair description.

"More than fair," Harlig replied, adding, "remarkably accurate."

Conn's brief recap of Blue Ribbon Commission meetings was free of any of the criticisms he's voiced in the past about studies leading up to the decision to build a new airport being insufficient.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Blaine County Commission was to amend the county's comprehensive plan to include language citing the need for a new airport to replace Friedman that would be upgraded to C-III category to handle larger aircraft and provide a state-of-the-art all-weather landing system, as well as an explanation of the need for the larger facility.

Though the Blue Ribbon Commission has held its last meeting, more work lies ahead before a new airport governing body is in place.

Meetings are tentatively planned to gather input from valley cities, candidates for the board will be nominated and screened, and a board finally will be appointed, possibly this summer.

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