Friday, May 7, 2010

Airport board to open 'independent' seat

Ron Fairfax could be challenged

Express Staff Writer

Ron Fairfax

Members of the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority seemed to be walking on egg shells Tuesday when they agreed to open up the so-called fifth, independent seat on the governing body to applicants, even as the current occupant, Ron Fairfax, sat and listened to colleagues discuss why he should not be automatically reappointed when his term expires in July.

Authority board members, including Hailey appointee Susan McBryant, who was out of town but attended via a telephone connection, went out of their way to disclaim any attempt to oust Fairfax.

Instead, they rallied around the idea that applications should be taken from residents interested in serving on the board and who're qualified—including Fairfax, a Hailey dentist and longtime aircraft owner and pilot.

The last time this process was used was in 2001, when Fairfax applied and was seated, according to airport attorney Barry Luboviski. Fairfax has since been reappointed every two years.

Two of the authority's members are appointed by the Blaine County Commission, two by the city of Hailey and the fifth, independent member by the authority board members. The county's representatives are Commissioners Tom Bowman and Larry Schoen.

Authority chair Bowman asked McBryant and Schoen to work out an updated method for filling the independent seat from outside applications and have it ready for the June meeting. Fairfax has indicated his desire to remain on the board.

The issue had arisen earlier Tuesday at a County Commission meeting, when Schoen's reappointment to the authority was to be voted on by the county officials. The term of Schoen, who was named to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of authority member Len Harlig, ends in June. Harlig is now a member of the Blaine County Airport Advisory Committee.

County Commissioner Angenie McCleary balked when Schoen's reappointment came up. She suggested others should apply. However, she voted along with Bowman to reappoint Schoen when it was pointed out that the joint powers agreement requires two members each from the city of Hailey and Blaine County to be seated.

As a pilot, Fairfax has provided the board with cockpit perspectives when questions about airport navigation systems and operations have arisen.

Conditions of the joint powers agreement require a unanimous vote by the authority members for filling the independent seat. A "no" vote automatically scuttles an applicant's chances.

Bowman explained later that going through a reappointment process for the independent seat every two years probably would be abandoned in favor of a longer term.

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