Saturday, February 27, 2016

Vance Brand Airport (KLMO) noise complaints down: City's new feedback system a caveat to comparison

The amount of airport noise complaints and the number of people making complaints went down in 2015 as compared to 2014, according to the airport's annual report.

The noise complaint log has been a source of contention for years as resident group Citizens for Quiet Skies took Mile-Hi to court, claiming the skydiving company's planes are too noisy and fly too frequently.

A slightly larger portion of the 2015 noise complaints, however, pertained to skydiving operations than in 2014. In 2014, complaints about Mile-Hi Skydiving made up roughly 90 percent of the total noise complaints. In 2015, complaints about skydiving made up roughly 93 percent of the total noise complaints.

But there are several factors complicating the comparison between the years, namely the city changed the process by which it receives feedback — airport noise complaints included.

In the old system, complaints were entered into a spreadsheet from phone calls, the city's online feedback system, emails and voicemails. If a resident complained about airport noise to a city staffmember or to a city councilmember, it was only recorded on the noise complaint spreadsheet if that email or voicemail was forwarded on to the airport manager, Airport Manager David Slayter said.

"The old system also experienced a few issues such as human error where an email may have been missed, or during personnel transition, email or voicemail complaints did not get transferred," Slayter said via email. "Because there is also the possibility of equipment failures, we decided it was better to have a single collection process that maintained system integrity, transparency and mitigated or eliminated human error."

Under the new system, implemented midway through 2015, people who want to give feedback to the city must create a login through the online Service Request System. A first name and email is required, but users can leave last name, phone number and address out, Slayter said. Complaints can still be made anonymously.

"The online complaint policy is the official collection point, so if a call or email is made or sent to a council member, it is not officially logged into the system," Slayter said. "I have noticed that there are times that there will be a complaint filed online but the same information is emailed to the mayor, council and staff as well."

Additionally, complaints must be at least 20 minutes apart to be considered separate complaints.

Kimberly Gibbs, who leads the group Citizens for Quiet Skies, theorized that the complaint process change is one of the major reasons for the decreased complaints and the slightly higher percentage of complaints about skydiving noise.

"I know a lot of people who would send an email to council but do not do that process," Gibbs said, adding that people annoyed with skydiving may be more motivated than others to get through the process.

Additionally, Gibbs said, the loss of the Citizens for Quiet Skies lawsuit and the arguments around the 2014 noise complaint log in 2015 could have discouraged people from complaining.

In February 2015, an unofficial analysis of the 2014 complaint log sparked several heated discussions in board and City Council meetings. The analysis by airport board Chairman Don Dolce labeled a group of complainers as statistically "invalid" because of their involvement with the lawsuit, because they complained very frequently or both. City staff eventually scrubbed the analysis from the final report.

Airport proponents continue to point out in airport advisory board and City Council meetings that a large portion of the complaints are still made by a very small number of people. In 2014, 52 percent of the complaints were made by one person and another 28 percent of the complaints were made by nine other people. In 2015, 27 percent of the complaints were made by one person and another 33 percent of complaints were made by four other people.

The city's new feedback system does offer a new data point into the airport complaint discussion — compliments. After the new system was implemented, the airport received 15 positive comments, Slayter told the airport advisory board in January.

"With the new system only having been in place for half the year; and the positive comment category being new, the number of positive comments is anticipated to see an increase in 2016," Slayter wrote.

Original article can be found here:

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