Thursday, March 10, 2016

Rupert May Change Mind on Airport Board

RUPERT • The City Council is coming around to the idea of sending one of its members to a planning task force for a new Mini-Cassia airport.

Just last month, Mike Pape, administrator of the Idaho Division of Aeronautics, unsuccessfully tried to sell Council members on joining the task force, which would study new locations in Mini-Cassia for a single-runway airport.

But with FAA officials saying this is the last attempt for site selection it will fund, Burley Administrator Mark Mitton made his pitch at Tuesday’s Rupert City Council meeting to bring the city on board.

The Council was more receptive to Mitton’s presentation and after more discussion will likely send a member to the task force.

Unless Rupert, Minidoka and Cassia counties and other municipalities join the task force within 30 days, Mitton said, plans for a new airport “probably won’t go forward.”

“I would hate to see us disadvantaged by not having a general aviation airport here,” Mitton said.

The Burley airport, which began construction in 1928, is wedged between the Snake River, a railroad and many smoke stacks. It has a runway shorter than published and doesn’t meet FAA standards. Mitton said it’s “starting to come to the end of its life.”

The new airport would be for local and general aviation, crop dusters and business.

Having Rupert involved in the site selection wouldn’t cost the city money or commit them to anything, Mitton said. With the city on board, the task force could find people willing to sell property to make way for a new airport.

They’d also be able to discuss how the airport would be run, whether through an advisory committee or an airport authority.

“We just want a location that’s safe, No. 1,” Mitton said, “and a place that will serve the needs of our community.”

Mayor Mike Brown was concerned the number of those involved with the task force could make coming up with site recommendations difficult.

The task force has sought involvement from Minidoka and Cassia Counties, the core cities of Mini-Cassia and other entities — including the chamber of commerce.

Mitton answered questions from the City Council, and said task force membership will be limited to the core cities and counties and that recommendations for sites are anticipated this fall.

“We’ll definitely discuss and have (Administrator Kelly Anthon) get with you...” Brown said.

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