Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Public can weigh in on airport process

City, Airport Authority schedule meetings in valley

Express Staff Writer

City and county officials will hold public meetings on the airport replacement process over the next two weeks, seeking the community input that Federal Aviation Administration officials are calling for.

Donna Taylor, representative for the FAA, told elected officials last week that the agency remained committed to helping the region maintain air service, despite its suspension last month of a draft environmental impact statement for a new airport. However, Taylor said the FAA needed guidance on what direction Blaine County wanted its airport process to take.

As a result, the city of Hailey has set up three "open house" airport meetings, to be held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week.

Friedman Memorial Airport Manager Rick Baird said members of the public would be able to stop by the Hailey City Hall at noon and at 5:30 p.m. to meet with city officials, who will take comments and answer questions on the airport process.

Another meeting will be held Monday, Sept. 26, at noon at Hailey City Hall.

"Obviously, there is uncertainty in the community about where we go next," said Martha Burke, Hailey City Council member and vice chair of the authority, in a press release.

A call to Burke to find out which elected officials would be present, what sort of response she anticipated and whether the options presented would include expanding the existing site was not returned by press time Tuesday.

County Commissioner and authority Chair Tom Bowman said the Airport Authority will also hold a large public meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 5:30 p.m. in the Continental Room of the Sun Valley Inn.

The meeting will involve up to 35 "stakeholders," elected officials, aviation experts and interested parties who will lead a public discussion.

The list of invited stakeholders includes the mayors of Ketchum, Hailey and Sun Valley, as well as former Blaine County Airport Advisory Committee member Len Harlig and Ketchum real estate agent Dick Fenton.

"He's attended more meetings than anybody," Bowman said of Fenton's place on the stakeholder list.

The meeting's agenda is not final, but Bowman said it was set to include a discussion of how important commercial air service is to Sun Valley.

"It's almost a rhetorical question," Bowman said. "Is commercial air service valuable to Sun Valley's economy? People are going to say, 'Yeah, I think so!'"

Consultants Scott Cary and Chuck Sunby will give presentations on what it would mean for the community to look at expanding the current site, as well as reconsidering three or four others. The presentations will involve only broad themes, with few details and no cost estimates.

"I assume they'll be refining the plans" based on public comment, Bowman said.

Katherine Wutz:

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