Thursday, August 24, 2017

Burlington International Airport (KBTV), Chittenden County, Vermont: Seeking Williston’s support for airport regionalization

City leaders in South Burlington are leading a charge to band together Chittenden County communities to take ownership of Burlington International Airport. The mayor of Burlington, the airport’s current owner, opposes the idea.

South Burlington City Councilor Tom Chittenden and City Manager Kevin Dorn presented the case for regionalization Tuesday to Williston Selectboard members, asking them to sign a resolution to create a commission to study a regional governance model for the airport. “As a taxpayer, I would like to see Williston have a voice in this enterprise,” resident David Cranmer said. The city councils in South Burlington and Winooski have signed onto the resolution. Williston Selectboard members tabled consideration of the resolution to a future meeting. Board member

Ted Kenney said that, throughout his service on various town and school district governing boards, he could recall no adverse effects to Williston residents with the way the airport is currently run. “I don’t know how any of this will affect Williston if there is a regional governance model,” he said. “There are a huge amount of unknowns … I am very cautious of unintended consequences.”

Chittenden argued that a governing structure that regionalizes authority would give communities affected by airport operations recourse to affect change and address concerns. Currently, authority rests solely with the mayor of Burlington and the director of aviation, whom the mayor appoints.

Chittenden noted that the airport is outside Burlington city limits and funded primarily by the Federal Aviation Administration, rather than Burlington taxpayers. A regional governing board would free the airport of Burlington city regulations and increase its bonding authority, he said.

It would also decrease friction between the City of Burlington and its surrounding communities and open the door to input from the State of Vermont, he said. “We effectively have this critically important piece of economic development infrastructure that is managed by one person answering to the mayor of Burlington,” Dorn said.

“It wholly impacts neighborhoods outside (Burlington) boundaries, yet we have no say what goes on there. “If the neighboring communities band together and sign this resolution, then (Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger) will see the value of forming this committee.”

Weinberger wrote a letter earlier this month to Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire outlining his opposition to the regionalization proposal. He said city ownership is common throughout the country and that the airport has thrived under it.

He also said airport management works with neighboring communities to address questions or concerns and makes decisions with the “entire region’s economic future in mind.” “No clear case has been made, or I suspect can be made, that regionalization will strengthen our airport,” he wrote. “… There is a real risk that regionalization done wrong, or for parochial reasons, could actually weaken one of the region’s most successful economic drivers.”

McGuire plans to invite Weinberger to a future selectboard meeting to present his case in person before the selectboard decides whether to sign onto the resolution. Winooski Mayor Seth Leonard also weighed in with a letter to the Williston Selectboard, saying Winooski “has lost faith that the current governance model is sustainable.”

“This is about recognizing that operational and strategic decisions that are made at the airport have far greater impacts on our communities than they do on the community that is currently making all of the decisions,” he wrote. “We are not seeking to undermine the airport,” Leonard concluded, “we are seeking to strengthen it.”

Original article  ➤

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