Wednesday, December 21, 2011

County: Air service crucial for state

Commissioners, manager to discuss issue with governor


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County commissioners and Friedman Memorial Airport Manager Rick Baird said Tuesday that they will ask Gov. Butch Otter to seriously consider how the state can help all community airports retain commercial air service.

Baird and the commissioners will have the opportunity to discuss airport issues with Otter during the Capital for a Day event this morning at the Sun Valley Inn.

The program allows community leaders and local residents to have the ear of the governor and more than a dozen state agency heads for a day, asking for help with issues ranging from foreclosure rates to economic development and public transportation.

Baird said he plans on giving a 20-minute presentation to the governor and his entourage, but told commissioners that they, too, should decide how to approach the issue with state officials.

"I don't think it's inappropriate to ask the governor and his staff to keep in mind how important access to Idaho is," he said.

The concern is especially timely, Baird said, as the Boise Airport has lost seats, Allegiant Air has stopped service to Twin Falls from Las Vegas, and Seattle-based airline Seaport has recently ended its Boise-to-Idaho Falls flight offering.

Commissioner Larry Schoen said reliable air service is an issue that concerns community airports across the state, not just airports that serve resort communities such as Sun Valley.

"We share deep concerns about the loss of air service, and we think the issue needs to be addressed at the federal, state and local levels," he said during Tuesday's meeting. "It's important the governor knows we have this concern. The loss of air service [to Idaho] can be a serious limiting factor to economic sustainability."

Otter will be traveling with Jeff Sayer, director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, an agency that oversees travel and tourism in the state.

County resident Len Harlig said that as air service brings tourists to Sun Valley, the state and particularly the Department of Commerce should be aware of the county's air service needs.

"There is significant sales tax and other tax revenues that come as a result of tourist business in the sate," he said. "That is something the government should be very much interested in."

Capital for a Day begins at 9 a.m. today, Dec. 21, in the Continental Room at the Sun Valley Inn. The program, which lasts until 3 p.m., is open to the public.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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