Sunday, November 11, 2018

Four years of airport carnage

By JEFF SAYRE

I have a long history of using the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport as many of you do. I use it for travel for work and play, every which way. I’ve worked on air shows, supported past board members and their efforts to bring new airlines and expanded service to the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and helped support Federal Aviation Administration money going toward airport improvements.

In 2017, the Lewiston airport hit a record 72,848 people who boarded planes in Lewiston. In 2016, that number was 69,693.

That does not include college sports teams and charters flying into and leaving the Lewiston airport.

Lots of people doing business in north central Idaho used to fly to Boise via Horizon Air from Lewiston and back.

We still have a huge service area, despite Lewiston City Councilor Jim Kleeburg’s assertion that no one flies to Boise. On the contrary, sir.

Legislators who are going to and from work from north central Idaho when the Legislature is in session and citizens who are doing business with Idaho government agencies fly to and back from Boise all year long.

Well, they used to.

Kids who attend the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind used to.

Parents of baseball players playing in the Avista NAIA World Series used to.

Hunters from all over America and world who come here to hunt used to.

Cancer patients, used to.

Lots of people used to fly to Boise to get to Mexico, California and even NASCAR events in Las Vegas and Phoenix.

Alaska, Southwest, Allegiant, United and Delta all fly into and out of Boise. We just can’t make those connections now. Will we be able to do so in the future? I sure hope so.

How many of you have driven up or down Bryden Avenue to see cars parked all the way around the city’s softball park numerous times a year? All of us have.

They were not there for a game; they had flown out and the free parking lot was full.

What has gone wrong up there with management and the airport board is troubling for the community and region, whatever it is.

It needs to be resolved. Fast.

After Robin Turner retired in 2014 after 30 years as manager, we lost Bruce MacLachlan after 15 months as airport manager. Then Chris Hayes left after 16 months. Now we have Stephanie Morgan as manager, who was hired in May of 2017.

So, what is the matter here?

Volunteers and legal counsel to the board are and have been dropping like flies hit with Malathion for some time. Air service for the rural and local communities is critical for the future development of Lewiston and the region.

Pullman does not cut it. If you have ever been there, I think you will agree with my assessment.

Pullman’s airport is a ghetto.

It is nowhere near the facility that the Lewiston airport is. Pullman is a scary and dangerous place for pilots to fly into every day, let alone for people who have to or used to have to drive there when Lewiston was fogged in.

How did Horizon get away?

Did anyone from Lewiston, the Lewiston airport authority board or the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley chamber, Valley Vision or the city council meet with them in the past two years?

Did airport administration meet with them or reach out to them recently?

As Marty Trillhaase and a few other reporters indicated in the Lewiston Tribune, there was plenty of time and a heads up to try to keep them here. Walla Walla did it with a community effort.

Were fees reduced or offered to be reduced?

Why did Horizon do a surprise visit to the Lewiston airport?

At the Oct. 22, Lewiston City Council meeting, former City Manager Jim Bennett painted a pretty picture that was all sunshine and flowers. When Lewiston airport business owners and aviators followed him, they gave direct opposite testimony to his statements. 

Why is that?

Why was a U.S. Navy pilot veteran of 21 years’ experience and with 15 years of Boeing project management experience run off the airport board?

How about the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley manufacturing business owner who was chairman? He was also run off and resigned.

Why is a respected local entrepreneur, aviation historian and businessman who is willing to invest about $5 million to build an aviation museum here getting the runaround?

What is really going on here at our taxpayer-supported regional airport?

This is a local and regional transportation hub for thousands of people. Some on our city council and city management seem not to not give a rat’s behind of the local and regional impacts.

The county commissioners have tried, but their people have been run off. Stop up there at 5:30 p.m. after work. It’s empty. Vacant. Locked up tight.

Cages are closed. The Transportation Security Administration is gone

The lights on but no one is home. Strange.

What could it be?

Collusion?

Corruption?

Incompetency?

Budget inaccuracies?

Federal Aviation Administration violations in record keeping?

What exactly needs to be uncovered?

It’s a two-handed head-scratcher for lots of folks trying to get to the bottom of it. They get stonewalled at every turn.

Why? What gives? Why all the carnage that has occurred up there for four years?

There is one common denominator.

We as city and county residents and taxpayers must demand 100 percent transparency and accountability at the Lewiston airport. If not. You’re fired!

When will we get it?

Sayre of Lewiston served as regional director to former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig.

Original article can be found here ➤  https://lmtribune.com

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