Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Airport reports miss the point

Reporter Pat Murphy has again belittled the important work of the airport advisory committee, and has misreported my comments. More disturbing, he continues to ignore the substance of criticisms of the airport planning process.

Because it is the largest project the county has ever undertaken, and because the replacement airport will affect every aspect of our local economy and taxation, we believe that the planning process should conduct detailed economic, transportation and other analyses using up-to-date demand and cost assumptions. We also believe that the governance body overseeing replacement airport planning should be broadly representative of all citizens in the county.

When I criticized the economic planning work of the consultants earlier this month, it was because they are using a demand forecast developed in 2007 that no one in the current planning process believes is reliable. This discredited forecast shows commercial and general aviation demand literally doubling over a two- to three-year period, and is based on dubious assumptions of competitive airport passenger recapture and general aviation demand. This forecast was prepared for the FAA, so we are told it cannot be updated with a new forecast. Consequently, our expensive consultants can only do "scenarios" off of it. For a project currently estimated at $150 million, this is irresponsible to our citizens and taxpayers.

I have criticized the lack of broad representation on the principal airport-planning group, the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority. Despite the fact that north-county visitors and related businesses generate more than two-thirds of Blaine County's economic activity and both commercial and general aviation passenger traffic, there is not a single representative on this body from population centers north of Hailey. That doesn't make sense to us. You may disagree, but it does not seem unreasonable to at least report the substance of important disagreements around this massive project.

Charles Conn

Ketchum Airport Liaison


Editor's note: The Express stands by the referenced story in the Oct. 8 edition, called "Airport advisors looking for project ideas."

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