Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Legal adviser: ‘inertia’ enemy of new airport

Express Staff Writer

Denver attorney Peter Kirsch warned Blaine County commissioners and Hailey City Council members on Thursday that they must "fight against inertia every single day" to maintain momentum in designing and building a replacement for Friedman Memorial Airport.

"This is the most complex public works project you can imagine," Kirsch told a joint meeting of the Hailey and Blaine County government policy makers at the Community Campus, "and then multiply it by 10."

Kirsch is special legal adviser to Friedman Memorial Airport Authority. His presentation to the joint meeting, he said, was "to talk about pitfalls that lie ahead and make them minor speed bumps."

Friedman's replacement, if all goes well, has been targeted for opening in about five years.

"When the EIS [environmental impact statement] is completed and the whole world knows you're serious about building an airport," Kirsch said, "you'll be under intense scrutiny" by "financial markets watching for political will" to complete the project.

"Opponents" to the airport, he said, "will exploit any local uncertainty or political ambiguity."

Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson and county Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves agreed to produce a "memorandum of understanding" on airport issues that Hailey and the county would tackle as part of the transition to a new airport and a changeover to a new governing body.

Included on the list are redeveloping the current Friedman airport to meet community needs as well as derive revenues from land sales to pay for a new field; rehab current airport land to eliminate any environmental problems; and establish a timetable for shifting governance and obligations to the FAA to a new airport authority.

Hailey already is undertaking redevelopment studies for Friedman's 211 acres, slightly less than half of which were donated by the pioneer Friedman family and will revert to the family's control when Friedman is closed.

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