Sunday, June 26, 2016

Closure talk brings protests from backers of Kalispell City Airport (S27), Flathead County, Montana

Kathryn's Report:

Despite a relatively run-of-the-mill agenda, Monday night’s Kalispell City Council meeting elicited strong opinions from more than a dozen residents and stakeholders protesting the possible closure of Kalispell City Airport.

While no discussion of the airport was scheduled Monday, a succession of pilots and other airport supporters spent more than an hour during the public comment period arguing in favor of keeping the airport open.

During a work session earlier this month, the council decided to place on its July 5 agenda an up-or-down vote on whether to shutter the city-owned airport in South Kalispell.

“It was amazing to us to read that the potential to close the airport down would even be considered,” Dewey Swank, the vice president of a major construction company, told the council.

As the manager of Swank Enterprises’ Kalispell office, Swank said he knew from firsthand experience that redevelopment of the airport land would be extremely difficult, due to the clay-based soils, a high water table and the need to clear existing structures from the 71-acre aviation facility.

Swank was also one of several speakers Monday night who suggested the city could still work with airport stakeholders to keep it open.

“We’re good stewards of the place, we’re inventive, we’re good business people,” Swank said. “If the city would have a tangible thing they wanted us to accomplish to make it better as a city asset ... we could easily take care of it.”

Dave Hoerner, who has worked intermittently at the airport since 1981 and is the manager of Montana Air Adventures/Red Eagle Aviation, called putting proposed federally funded upgrades up for a citywide vote “the worst mistake you ever made.”

“I just can’t see how $14 million can get let go that easy,” he said. “This airport’s a diamond in the rough. It just needs polishing.”

Other pro-airport speakers criticized a city-funded study completed by CTA Architects last year and argued that services provided by the 88-year-old airport, from wildfire suppression to its appeal to businesses from outside the region, were not being sufficiently considered as the council weighs the pros and cons of maintaining the facility.

After more than an hour of public comment on the airport, the City Council moved on to other business and unanimously approved a continuing resolution to allow the city to continue funding services until a final budget is passed.

City Attorney Charles Harball explained that because the state’s projections of city revenues over the next year won’t be available until August, the resolution would allow spending based on preliminary budget once the city’s new fiscal year begins July 1.

The vote also set a public hearing on the budget for July 5.

The council will meet next Monday, June 27, at 7 p.m., for a work session to discuss a proposed zoning amendment for short-term residential rentals.

Original article can be found here:

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