Friday, June 12, 2009

Conn wants separate county study on airport matters

Express Staff Writer

Saying it is "patently absurd" for Blaine County Commissioners to avoid making a decision on a replacement airport, Ketchum City Councilman Charles Conn this week upped his pressure for answers.

In a followup e-mail to Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman, Conn wrote that the Federal Aviation Administration and consultants Landrum & Brown "must not be in a position to unilaterally decide."

Within hours of Conn's e-mail to Bowman, the co-chair of the airport authority, Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall and Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich sent e-mails to Bowman approving Conn's proposal as the official position of their cities.

Conn's list of airport-related issues that he says require county study—a county transportation plan, environmental wildlife plan, funding for a new airport, airport safety, weather factors at a new airport, among others—are already included in the scope of an Environmental Impact Statement study being conducted under FAA auspices by Landrum & Brown, a Cincinatti, Ohio-based consulting firm.

The first phase of the four-part study is expected to cost $1.7 million.

In a telephone interview, Landrum & Brown president Mark Perryman said Phases 2 and 3 of the four-phase study include "a big chunk" of those issues. Experts in specific areas, he said, will be compiling input and information from various community and government sources. The EIS will be completed in about two years.

Conn did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether his proposal would duplicate the EIS study and how a county study would be funded. Conn previously has asked Bowman to speed up creation of a new body that eventually would govern a new airport.

Bowman told Conn his e-mail would be discussed at the July 7 airport authority meeting.

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