Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Appoint Hailey mayor to the Airport Authority

Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle says he wants to be appointed to the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority to represent the city. The Hailey City Council should waste no time in granting his wish.

It’s time for the mayor to get out from behind the gavel, out of City Hall and begin to personally grapple with the details of the most critical issue facing the Sun Valley area today.

The issues surrounding the need for improvements in airport operations and safety to accommodate regional jets are technically and politically complex. They’re complicated by the airport’s current location, the costs and environmental ramifications of building a new airport outside Hailey, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s suspension of consideration of a new airport located elsewhere.

Friedman Memorial Airport is on the brink of being rendered obsolete because commercial airlines are replacing older aircraft with newer, larger, faster and more comfortable regional jets that can fly greater distances than their predecessors.

Mayor Haemmerle complained in an opinion published in this newspaper last week that when this newspaper opines on the airport, it focuses on the economy. We plead guilty as charged because we believe that good jobs are the foundation of healthy communities and families.

If the airport is rendered obsolete, the valley’s economy will be as well. It will die starved of money spent by visitors who had arrived by air, and depleted of businesses that depend on air service. Last week’s news that Scott USA is moving part of its operations to Utah because of the difficulty in traveling to the Sun Valley area was proof enough of that.

Without an adequate airport, Hailey and the rest of the Sun Valley area will remain a great place to live only if you’re an elk or a cougar.

The Airport Authority is where views on the airport’s future are clashing. The mayor would bring new blood to a tired board that’s been buffeted by the airport’s owners, its neighbors, business people, other cities and the FAA. He would be an ardent spokesman for the city’s position that the Hailey family lifestyle should trump airport expansion and that the only option is to locate the airport elsewhere.

He could apply his passion to solving the gnarly issues, including location, neighbors vs. noise; airport safety vs. homes, highway, schools and commercial operations; and jobs vs. a small-town idyll.Hailey is one of two cities most affected by the airport. It’s time the city’s chief executive officer got off the sidelines and into the game. Like a football quarterback, he may find that the game looks different on the field with the team than it does from the stands.

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