Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sustain Blaine plans airport meeting

Business community asked to weigh in

Express Staff Writer

Sustain Blaine economic development group wants to hear what the business community—and only the business community—has to say about Friedman Memorial Airport.

Spokesman Evan Lawler said the group plans to hold an economically focused airport meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 30. However, the only people allowed to participate in the meeting will be invited business owners.

"The public is invited," Lawler said. "But the people who have been invited to represent the business community will be the ones giving the input."

Input will be collected through wireless handheld keypads like those used at the Ketchum comprehensive plan meeting in October. Business owners will be asked to respond through the keypad to questions projected on a large screen, and the results will be immediately tabulated and displayed.

Lawler said the devices would only be given to business representatives, whose voices have not been heard in recent pubic meetings.

"Right now, we want the business voice," he said. "From the feedback we've gotten, there are people who are intimidated to speak up because of the overwhelming emotional content of the meetings."

Previous airport meetings have been contentious, with Bellevue and Hailey residents protesting an expansion of the airport or airport operations at the current site. However, members of the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority board as well as officials from the Federal Aviation Administration have said they aren't sure the community can afford to build a replacement airport elsewhere.

Lawler said representatives from Smith, Power Engineers, Sun Valley Co. and other large local businesses would be invited to participate. The devices allow business representatives to remain anonymous and decrease the emotional tension that was present in other meetings, he said.

"The discussion won't ever be unemotional, but we're trying to present some facts," he said. "Know it or not, all of us are touched economically by reliable air service."

Lawler said a time and location for the meeting would be announced later this week.

Katherine Wutz:

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