Three legs to airport study
the new year the newly formed Blaine airport committee
will start looking at alternative uses for the land now
occupied by the city’s airport.
Meanwhile city legal staff is already working on their
half of the voter-mandated investigation of the potential
closure of the facility.
“This has two parts,” said city manager Gary Tomsic at a December 12 work session. “When we started we were looking at alternative land uses. The ballot question was about the feasibility of closing the airport.”
The ballot measure mandated the city to look at the feasibility of closing the airport but it didn’t say how, Tomsic said, and council could oversee the study themselves rather than delegating the task to a committee.
“I’m a little afraid of that option,” said council member Ken Ely. “Because of the volatility of the issue there needs to be a buffer between opposing factions and council. I think everyone knows council is divided.”
Council member Mike Myers said he was opposed to the committee approach but would support it as “an added voice” with the understanding that any final decision came from council members.
Council members agreed the committee would not make a recommendation about whether or not to close the airport, but would investigate possible alternatives for the land. The legal and financial ramifications of closing the facility, such as the cost of terminating leases and satisfying federal requirements, would be a question reserved for legal staff, Tomsic said. “I see that set of questions being addressed in house,” he said.
Bob Brunkow warned council members they were unlikely to get a yes-or-no answer about whether the city could feasibly close the airport. “There is a wide range of issues and the final number can range dramatically,” he said. “It won’t be as tidy as you want it to be.”
Tomsic also said council needed to look beyond the ballot question of whether the city could afford to close the airport, to whether it should. “Part of feasibility here is advisability,” he said. “Even if it’s feasible is it the right thing to do? What are some of the opportunities for this community if the land were developed as an airport?”
Airport commissioner Doug Fenton acknowledged that the study was not covered under the airport master plan and the commission would prepare that piece of the puzzle for council consideration.
“The citizens deserve to know what all the alternatives are, whether it’s feasible or not,” Brunkow agreed.