Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mayor’s claim on airport is not justified

Fritz Haemmerle, Hailey mayor and Friedman Memorial Airport Authority board member, states the county was “just giving lip service” to the ideas of a long-term replacement airport. This statement is nonproductive toward finding the “right” solution for our region and not just the right solution for Hailey. I have been involved with the airport process over the last several years as a member of the Blaine County Airport Advisory Committee, which I am not representing in my personal comments herein.

I believe the county representatives have acted in good faith in trying to find the right replacement airport. These efforts were stalled after numerous studies showed that a new airport at either of the two possible sites would cost approximately $300 million to $350 million. That’s $10,000 to $15,000 in capital cost per resident in the Wood River Valley. True, the FAA would pick up about half that cost, leaving the local burden of $150 million. Would Hailey be willing to step up and make a commitment to fund their share of this cost?

On the other hand, if we can provide the region with an airport facility at the existing site that meets reliability (weather) concerns with improved avionics technology and some runway/taxiway modifications for under $100 million (needs verification by current studies), then we should pursue this option along with other off-site solutions.

Let’s keep in mind that a new facility is probably 10 years away before completion due to lengthy site relocation studies, EIR processes, design and construction. Are we to wait that long without doing anything to improve reliability at the existing airport?  I hope not.

If the existing airport morphs into the permanent solution, it will only occur because it is the right solution for the entire community and not because the county representatives are giving lip service to other options.

Carl Harris



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