Council May Resurrect Airport Advisory Board

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A highly contentious issue from the past will be revisited at Thursday's town council meeting:hether the Airport Advisory Board should be resurrected.

The town council voted to abolish the board in 2001. Then-mayor Ray Schum said that "most of the time at board meetings is consumed hearing and discussing complaints from airport critics that should be handled administratively by airport management staff."

In a December 2002 council meeting, the council voted not to resurrect the board by a 4-to-3 vote -- with Mayor Ken Murphy, and councilors Robert Henley and Bryan Siverson dissenting.

This time, Jon Barber requested on behalf of much of the aviation community, that the council revisit the issue of re-establishing the board.

Murphy agreed and directed Carpenter to put it on this Thursday's agenda.

According to the minutes of the December 2002 meeting, questions arose about the necessity of the board, certain perceived conflicts of interest and the effect the board had on Airport Manager Ted Anderson.

Murphy and Henley, who were in favor of reforming the board, asked what the difference was between having an airport board and having the planning and zoning commission and the Parks and Recreation board.

Town Attorney Sam Streichman was asked if Henley's involvement with the airport board was a conflict of interest since he is a property owner up at the airport.

Streichman said since he is one of many people who own property at the airport, he does not, by state statute, have a substantial conflict of interest, but what is termed a ‘remote conflict of interest' and is not in violation of state law.

Councilor Dick Reese voiced his concern about the airport board and said that $3,200 was spent each year on the prior advisory board when the other boards spent either nothing or a minimal sum of money.

Councilors Dick Wolfe, Judy Buettner and Barbara Brewer felt the board was micro-managing the airport manager who they felt was doing a good job and getting ample input from the public.

The attempt to re-establish the board was defeated.

Up for discussion

Councilor Dick Wolfe, council liaison to the board before it was disbanded, said he will again vote against reforming an airport advisory board.

Brewer said that she believes that a small group of pilots and property owners would prefer to run the airport rather than allowing Anderson to do the job he was hired for.

"Some of the people behind this applied for the airport manager's job," Brewer said. "What I see happening is that the flying community wants to have total control of the airport and do what they want to do instead of what's right for the whole town. They want to get rid of Ted Anderson."

Brewer said that Anderson has done more for the airport in three years than she has seen in her eight years on the council and his quarterly informational meetings allow plenty of public input. Also, Anderson has secured grants for projects the town could have never funded on its own.

"That was the only board that was costing the town money and it just wasn't necessary," Brewer said. "The state airport manager told us that towns under a population of 50,000 with an airport manager don't need a board."

Henley said he has never sought to oust Anderson, nor does he have the authority to do so. He said he does feel there is room for improvement and feels bringing back a board is a good idea.

"I think he's doing a better job," Henley said. "He and I have had our differences in the past, but I think he's doing a better job of being more responsive to the airport user community.

"The airport manager reports to the town manager," Henley said. "An advisory board doesn't have the power to remove him even if they wanted to. Sometimes there is disinformation in order to try to influence an outcome -- there was no effort to do that."

Henley said if the council votes to re-establish the board, it will be a cross-section of people who will be less involved than the previous board with operational issues.

"The problem before was that they were delving too deep into operational issues," Henley said. "The focus will be on policies and appropriate ways to enhance the airport."

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