Friday, September 4, 2009

Parties consent on airport governance

Hailey agrees to county’s plan for picking panel members

Express Staff Writer

After vowing that the "wrong people" wouldn't be named to a new advisory board working alongside the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority on a new airport, the Hailey City Council consented to the Blaine County Commission's plan for picking the new group's five members.

The panel will be composed of one member from general aviation, one from each of the three County Commission districts and one at large.

As proposed, they would be picked and seated at some future date, but would have no hand in decisions involving the operation of Friedman or planning and construction of a new airport until much later.

The city and the county are co-owners of the current airport.

At a joint city-county meeting Wednesday, special Friedman legal adviser Peter Kirsch, a Denver aviation attorney, suggested that members of the new group or a group proposed to succeed the airport authority could be eased onto the new airport board one by one over time to allow them to learn management of an airport.

It took the better part of an hour to get to some agreement, however. Hailey Councilman Fritz Haemmerle said that "if you get the wrong people in there to string out this process (of building a new airport), you may never get a new airport."

To which Friedman attorney Barry Luboviski, sitting in the audience as an observer, replied, "If you trust the authority, don't you think they would know they have spies in their midst?"

Haemmerle and Keith Roark, former Hailey mayor and former Blaine County prosecutor and now chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party, both said that "people in this room" are committed to scuttling a new airport.


Later, Haemmerle declined to name for publication whom he had in mind, but Roark named four people, including valley real estate executive Dick Fenton, who told the Idaho Mountain Express he had no comment about the remarks, and Ketchum City Councilman Charles Conn, who told the Express that "my comments on creating an oversight body for planning our replacement airport that represents all Blaine County's citizens, including drivers of our visitor-based economy and general aviation, can stand for themselves."

The other two named by Haemmerle and Roark are not being named by the Express because they could not be immediately reached for comment.

During the meeting, Conn once again pleaded for a new group that would become the new airport's managers to be seated with decision powers soon. Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich also said he had talked to developers who already are putting together what he called "sweetheart deals" to buy Friedman airport property once it's closed at prices that are a fraction of its value. Sun Valley Councilman Dewayne Briscoe joined in by suggesting that a "squabble" continues between the north and south valleys without a strong presence of north valley interests.

However, attorney Luboviski said no land sales could or would be approved by anyone other than the Federal Aviation Administration on the bulk of the airport land, which the FAA funded.

"The FAA decides at what price," he said.

Sale of Friedman land, expected to yield $45 million or more, would go toward the new airport's costs. Added funds would come from the FAA. The Friedman Memorial Airport Authority plans no use of tax funds.

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