Wednesday, February 8, 2012

D.C. trip takes Hailey leaders by surprise

Mayor cites councilorís fiduciary responsibility to city

Express Staff Writer

A late-night trip taken by Friedman Memorial Airport Authority board members last week to present airport concerns to the Idaho congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., left some Hailey officials feeling out of the loop.

Heated discussions during a Hailey City Council meeting a week later brought up the responsibility of Hailey's Airport Authority representative, Councilwoman Martha Burke. During a Hailey City Council meeting Monday, Mayor Fritz Haemmerle raised objections to Airport Authority Chair Tom Bowman.

"Obviously, two of you [Blaine County representatives] knew, and only one of us [Hailey representatives] knew, and went," Haemmerle said.

The upcoming trip had been noted in an Airport Authority meeting packet in early December. The trip was scheduled to take place in late January or early February.

The 1:30 a.m. trip immediately followed a spirited discussion in Hailey Council chambers on Jan. 30 when about 100 people crowded into City Hall to let the City Council and mayor know what they would like to see happen to the airport. Participants were board members Burke, Bowman and County Commissioner Angenie McCleary as well as airport Manager Rick Baird.

The group left materials with the congressional representatives that emphasize the potential economic impact of losing commercial air service to the valley, citing Sustain Blaine statistics that 45 percent of Blaine County's GDP is tied to commercial air service. The materials had a list of guiding principles from the county's perspective, but none from the city of Hailey.

"If the Hailey City Council had come to a consensus [during the Jan. 30 meeting], it would have been added to the leave-behind materials," Burke said to Haemmerle at the council meeting Monday.

Haemmerle, Councilman Don Keirn (who also sits on the Airport Authority board) and Councilman Pat Cooley said they had not been informed about Burke's imminent departure to the nation's capitol, and expressed displeasure about it.

"If we had known all the time that you were going to Washington, D.C., in a few days, we could have focused [in City Council discussions] more narrowly and had more of an impact," Cooley said.

Keirn, Cooley and Haemmerle agreed that Burke's primary responsibility as a member of the Airport Authority board is to the city of Hailey.

Burke apologized for not communicating issues related to her position on the Airport Authority more clearly, and said she will in the future share more fully the context of the meetings.

Tony Evans:

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