Letters to the Editor
I read with total amazement this stupid debate over Blaine’s airport.
This “committee to revitalize” Blaine wants to eliminate one important part of our city because it serves only hobbyists, “Dah.” If they want to rid the city of hobbyists, let’s close the boat harbor too! If their intent is to really revitalize Blaine, let’s start by getting rid of some of the many building restrictions to allow more development.
Also, this committee headed up by a realtor might consider stopping the inflationary raise of land costs caused by realtors. Do you realize that for every $1,000 they can raise the price of properties, the realtor can get up to $100 more in commission? That’s called greed.
Once the airport is gone, it’s gone forever. Do we really want that to happen?
In the 1970s, the Snohomish County commissioners closed Paine A.F.B. to commercial air traffic. Now they’re trying to rescind that action. Ha. We could have had a major regional airport in Everett if not for this closure. The point is, when it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Let’s stop this closure nonsense before we make lots of attorneys rich. For what?
Why is our city attorney taking sides on the airport issue? Why is Blaine City Council? Shouldn’t they be representing all Blaine taxpayers? The city council says they don’t want to put the airport on the ballot. If the airport is such a benefit to the taxpayers, why not? Don Nelson has the potential to make approximately $25,000 per month on the airport. He is on the steering committee for the airport expansion. Although he doesn’t live in Blaine, he is on the list of registered voters for the city of Blaine. Jeff Robinson, airport commissioner, will have a similar, lucrative opportunity, as he is another major leaseholder. The land is being leased dirt cheap to these gentlemen and there is none available for you or I. Mr. Robinson did not identify himself at a recent council meeting as an airport commission member. He did, however, stand up from an audience seat and express his desire to allow the airport, although he did not say why.
I really don’t think these guys’ first priority is the financial well being of us taxpayers or the 25 pilots who actually use the airport for what it was meant for. It appears that the Blaine airport commission violated WA State law RCW 8-12-260 when they neglected to appoint a board of eminent domain commissioners to study whether the city really needed to obtain someone else’s property for the better of all taxpayers before exercising eminent domain. Maybe our city attorney should check on that. After all he is obligated to do so since we all pay for him. Bonnie Onyon says some facts need to come out. Actually, all facts need to come out, no matter how “improper” they sound. This isn’t really about the airport, but the accountability of all involved.
In all of the discussion concerning the future of our airport, one key factor seems to have been ignored. What would be the cost to the city to close the airport? The council recently received a report with an estimate of these costs and I would like to summarize them to give your readers something to consider when they vote on the advisory question in the upcoming elections.
1. Repayment of state grants. The city has received approximately $400,000 in state grants for improvements to the airport. If the airport were to close, these grants would have to be repaid. The city has a contract with the state to maintain the airport in response to receiving these grants and the state probably would not allow the city to repay the grants. The state will most assuredly enter into litigation with the city to prevent closure.
2. Damages to leaseholders. A number of leases are in effect on the airport. If the airport were closed prior to the expiration of those leases, the city would be required to compensate the leaseholders. These damages are estimated at $2,800,000.
3. Litigation costs. If the airport were to close, there would almost certainly be a number of court proceedings commenced by airport users and other government entities. There will certainly be challenges from the state attorney general and the aircraft owners and pilot’s association (AOPA) representing approximately 400,000 pilots in the nation. A conservative estimate of the cost of conducting these lawsuits would be approximately $500,000.
4. Demolition and soil cleanup. Before the airport land could be utilized for alternate uses, the existing pavement would have to be removed. A conservative estimate to complete the demolition and soil cleanup, depending on the amount of contamination present, would be in the range of $500,000 to $1,000,000.
5. Repayment of airport fund loans. The airport fund is currently indebted to the city in the amount of approximately $435,000, primarily for the purchase of land. If the airport were to close, the revenue required to repay this debt would no longer exist and it would have to be absorbed by the taxpayers of Blaine. As such, it is certainly a cost of closing the airport.
In summary, a conservative estimate of the costs to the city to close the airport is $4,600,000 to $5,100,000. The only conceivable way to raise even a portion of that sum would be to sell the airport land. What would the city likely realize on a sale of the airport land? The airport consists of approximately 1,500,000 square feet or 34.3 acres of land. Taking into account that approximately 10 percent of the land is wetland, an optimistic estimate of what the city would realize on a quick sale would be in the neighborhood of $2 per square foot, or approximately $3 million.
This would result in the city incurring overall, a loss of approximately $1,600,000 to $2,100,000. Even allowing a generous margin for error in the above estimates, it is unlikely that the city would recoup the costs of closing the airport from the sale of the airport land. It is difficult for me to imagine an alternate use of the airport land that would justify such a cost to the taxpayers of Blaine. I urge your readers to vote no on the advisory ballot.
Blaine city council
During the past year, I served as a citizen representative assisting in the development of the Blaine municipal airport master plan. The airport is a city owned business enterprise. They are planning a new airport expansion that will have a significant impact on the Blaine general fund and expose our community to fiscal risk. The Blaine airport has a rich uncle called the Blaine general fund which must, when needed, rescue and bail the airport out of debt. The federal funds are not guaranteed; however, the city of Blaine must have sufficient money available for its share of grant costs. It is reprehensible that the city council didn’t choose an economic impact plan that could have been used in developing the airport master plan.
The city council doesn’t need public hearings or approval to obtain the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant. A problem exists for public input because the following FAA assurances (conditions) need only be complied with after grant acceptance by our city council. These conditions are:
Consistency with local plans; consultation with users; public hearings; compatible land use (which restricts usage of surrounding land); fee and rental structure (leases and a structure that encourages our airport to be more self-sustaining); disposal of land (in future years if Blaine decides it doesn’t want an airport in its academic and commercial core, it must dispose of federal grant acquired land at full market value or come up with the cash).
Zoning changes may result in future loss of potential tax revenue. There are many other airport project expenditures that must be examined prior to final approval by the city council.
The citizens of Anacortes are now questioning the existence of one of their airports as it costs too much to operate. Anacortes has another airport nearby; sound familiar? In light of this information, I have to ask this question: Does it make sense to put the city of Blaine at financial risk for a few hobby pilots?
Referencing the coming election for the Blaine city council – as a citizen and former mayor, I would commend to the voters – Bob Brunkow.
In his tenure on city council, Bob has demonstrated professional competency, maturity in his actions, depth in understanding issues, a strong sense of ethics and a record of pursuing courses of action that enhance and embrace the goals and visions of the city of Blaine.
Bob works extremely well as a team member, possesses a wealth of practical experience, with a proven record of outstanding accomplishments, both in the public and private sector. Bob holds himself to the highest level of integrity. I have no reservations in supporting Bob Brunkow and would urge Blaine citizens to cast their votes on his behalf.
Col. John W. Hobberlin
The season’s sculpture exhibit at the Peace Arch has closed and the works of art have gone away. It’s sad to enter this beautiful garden and not see the art that over the summer grew familiar. But the promise of the coming spring brings a feeling of anticipation of what marvelous works might appear for next year’s show.
While this is a wonderful mystery of anticipation there is one aspect of this annual event that is no mystery at all. I am, of course, referring to the staff at the park and the city whose diligence and professionalism combine seamlessly to bring this great art to the city of Blaine, the state of Washington and the people of the world that flow through this important portal between peaceful nations. They are by name: John Choulochas USCPAA board, Paul Atchison, USCPAA board and volunteer Christina Alexander USCPAA artist co-coordinator, Jason Snow interim park manager and June Auld, head gardener.
As we artists give voices to important events deepening the understanding and extending the world’s vision and imagination we are grateful to have the audience provided us by these deeply insightful people.
It is with a sense of gratitude that I would like to extend my personal thank you to these people and their support staff. It was Christina Alexander that spoke the words that will sustain me through the winter months, she said, “Gratitude is the feeling you get just before you feel at peace.”
Allen Emhoff, sculptor
When the adult bookstore on Peace Portal Way closed, new zoning was established to move this type of activity to the industrial area near the existing airport. A truck stop, motel, restaurant and bar will be proposed as the “best and highest use” of the existing airport property. The adult entertainment industry will become a viable and lucrative business venture when the truck stop and related development occurs. The $16.8 million FAA grant will help deter the adult entertainment industry from flourishing in Blaine. Think about it.
In Charlie Hawkins, we have an outstanding candidate to fill Marsha Hawkins’ shoes on the Blaine city council. A vote for him is a vote for Blaine’s success in the years ahead.
Charlie has been a Blaine resident his entire life.
As a commercial fisherman, small business owner, and now a school bus driver for the Blaine school district, Charlie is an integral part of this community.
He presently also serves on the Blaine Parks & Cemetery Board, the Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection Board and the Drayton Harbor Heritage Foundation, which is responsible for The Plover.
Charlie gives generously of his time and skills to help make Blaine the wonderful community it is. Charlie Hawkins is my choice for Blaine City Council. I hope he will be yours as well.
I just recently moved to Blaine and have been following the Blaine airport issue. I received a survey regarding the airport around six weeks ago and decided to ask other locals their opinions.
I was surprised to see that the airport was so close to a high school, a truck route and a small outlet mall. I was really disturbed to see an airport right in the middle of town!
A couple of weeks ago, my friend and I were having lunch at Burger King in Blaine and as we were leaving, we were amazed as an airplane flew no more than 100 feet over our heads on its landing approach to the Blaine airport. Needless to say, my decision about an airport in Blaine was made that Saturday afternoon.
I find it hard to believe that the airport has been voted on three times in 27 years! I don’t think it’s prudent for a city to ‘grandfather’ an airport when it is a public health risk. Voters need to ask themselves a very simple question. If the airport was now just vacant land, would it even be legal to permit this property as an airport?
I could possible see an airport if it was a mile or two away from schools and shopping centers, but I’m afraid expanding this poorly located airstrip would eventually lead to an accident that could cost more than a few lives.
The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank-you letters should be limited to 10 names. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.
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The Northern Light welcomes letters to the editor; however, the opinions expressed are not those of the editor. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number for verification. Letters must not exceed 350 words and may be edited or rejected for reasons of legality, length and good taste. Thank you letters are limited to five individuals or groups. A fresh viewpoint on matters of general interest to local readers will increase the likelihood of publication. Writers should avoid personal invective. Unsigned letters will not be accepted for publication. Requests for withholding names will be considered on an individual basis. Only one letter per month from an individual correspondent will be published.
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