Pampered Pilots Have Stranglehold On Economy

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Editor:

Payson residents need to know what is behind The Door Stop issue:

1. A group of private pilots, with unique "through the fence" access to Payson Municipal Airport (driving their airplanes on side streets to their own garage hangars), have dominated airport operations and policies for several years. Their people have ruled the town's airport advisory units and Payson Pilots Association, supported by friends and neighbors on the town council. They have effectively stymied efforts to make the airport grow and reach self-sufficiency, attacking those seeking to make it something other than a private pilots' club.

2. Since 1998, Payson has had an Airport Master Plan designed to help the economy, the business environment and the tax-base through expansion and development of the airport. It calls for expanding the runways, adding a terminal and other measures to enhance airport attraction and viability, with an estimated 85 percent financed by the FAA and ADOT. This coalition has successful forestalled almost all aspects of this plan.

3. These pilots pay minimal "through the fence" access fees of $15 per month. Meanwhile, by our calculations, the airport over the past three fiscal years has run operating losses of $60,228, $75,788 and $61,551 -- losses footed by taxpayers. In late 2001, Councilman Robert Henley, a private pilot with "through the fence" access, stated there were some 30 aircraft making use of that privilege. Based on that year's operating loss, Payson was subsidizing those aircraft to the tune of $2,500 each.

4. Sky Park Industrial Park, at the end of the noisy airport runway, is their latest target, as personified by The Door Stop. About 1,500 people have signed petitions stating The Door Stop's humming operations are not disturbing. Yet these pilots, who generate noise townwide, relentlessly attack The Door Stop and apparently also use local, state and federal agencies to do their dirty work. The Door Stop has had complaint-driven visits from the EPA, immigration, the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and multiple visits from Payson Police Department, Payson Community Development and other town staff since November. As yet, Door Stop's operations have required virtually no remedial actions. This is simply crippling harassment at taxpayer expense.

The new town council must take back control of the airport and the industrial park from these pampered pilots and use these two resources to benefit the entire town, not the select few.

Don Crowley, Co-chair, Citizens for Better Payson Government

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