Wednesday, December 8, 2010

County, Hailey inch toward airport deal

Airport Authority plans to add members, amend procedures


By JASON LYNCH
Express Staff Writer

Leaders of Blaine County and the city of Hailey stated Monday night that they are close to adopting a new agreement that will smooth the way toward a replacement airport for Friedman Memorial.

Proposed changes to a joint powers agreement between the county and city were at the heart of a meeting on Monday night, Dec. 6, at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey. The key issue is consistency of airport governance and sponsorship as a new airport is developed. Currently, both the county and Hailey "sponsor" Friedman Memorial Airport. They jointly enter into all legal agreements and financial guarantees related to it through the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority, which also manages the airport's daily operations.

A replacement airport will be governed and sponsored solely by the county, which will assume all legal agreements and financial guarantees related to the new airport. The problem facing local leaders is the consistency of airport sponsorship required by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA would like to deal with one airport sponsor for both airports; figuring out how to accomplish that was the focus Monday night.

Peter Kirsch, a Denver-based lawyer advising the Airport Authority, has suggested keeping the authority as the sponsor of both airports but changing the membership of the group as the transition unfolds. To do that, the authority's composition would change over time, from a body having members from both Blaine County and the city of Hailey (its current form) to one representing only the county when Friedman closes and a new airport opens.

While a vote to ratify a new joint powers agreement was put off at least until January, the assembled group on Monday was united in its support for the proposed changes.

"I am about 85 to 90 percent there on agreeing to this," County Commissioner Tom Bowman said. "I don't think this document can anticipate every possible challenge in the future and I am happy with what we have."

Others, like Hailey City Councilman Fritz Haemmerle, supported the changes but said they wanted more time to contemplate their full meaning.

"I just got this document tonight, so I want some time before I'm asked to vote on it," Haemmerle said.

At this time, the leading site for a replacement airport is in far southern Blaine County.




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