Wednesday, July 20, 2011

County approves airport agreement

Revision still must meet approval by Hailey


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

After two weeks of delay to collect public input, the Blaine County commissioners have signed an amended Friedman Memorial Airport joint powers agreement, solidifying the roles of the city of Hailey and the county in the process of creating a new airport.

"This is an important step in the replacement airport process," Commissioner Angenie McCleary said during a commissioners meeting Monday. "To have our entire board supportive is really important and gives a strong message to the community."

The agreement states that the city and the county will continue to share management of Friedman Memorial Airport as well as the replacement airport until the last parcel of land is sold at the existing site. At that time, the county will shoulder the full burden of airport management. Commissioner Larry Schoen previously objected to the agreement, saying the timeline for when the county would take sole responsibility for a new airport wasn't clear, as the last parcel of land could be sold many years after the new airport is complete. Though he said it still wasn't clear enough, he said he was willing to sign the agreement because it would allow all three county commissioners to take seats on the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority.

"There is still some uncertainty embedded in this agreement, but having the county in that key role today will ensure that future boards of county commissioners won't be burdened with the uncertainty that I fear," he said.

McCleary said that while she appreciated Schoen's concerns, the document needed to be signed to allow the authority to make decisions regarding a replacement airport.

"This board needs to wrestle in more depth with the issues in this document, and I appreciate that you've raised some concerns along the way," she told Schoen. "There are some unresolved issues, even when we sign this JPA, but it puts us in the position to move forward."

McCleary and Commissioner Tom Bowman said they received no additional comment during the two-week delay.

The Hailey City Council had already signed the agreement, but City Attorney Ned Williamson said it would need to review and approve one very minor change the commissioners made to the document.

"I anticipate absolutely no issue whatsoever, but I need to run it by them," Williamson said.

The council is scheduled to approve the agreement during its meeting on Monday, July 25.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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