Doug Nation, Terry Park, Phyllis Bookbinder and others
Be watchful of the Commissioners’ actions regarding the airport. Since 2000, ICAARE (Informing Citizens Against Airport Runway Expansion) has been informing the community about the airport. During this time our members have attended over 40 meetings with commissioners. ICAARE researched the issues and submitted accurate comments to every public meeting regarding airport expansion. Our primary objective has been to support improvements that create a safe airport that does not encourage larger jet traffic. These jets bring more noise and additional air pollution to the valley. Commissioners from all political persuasions have supported this reasonable position. This is not a political issue; it’s an economic and common sense issue.
After taking more than a year to review the options, the last set of commissioners voted last June to approve an Environmental Assessment written to address specific deficiencies in our current airport. This EA was written by an engineering company with the oversight of the FAA. The total cost of this EA exceeded $200,000, part of which was paid for by Ravalli County taxpayers. The commissioners directed the FAA to finalize the EA and make a recommendation to proceed with the action referred to as 2A. This option had been approved by the FAA as a safe and satisfactory way to solve problems at the airport.
Now the current commissioners are revisiting this entire process and they have two options. The first, and overwhelming most logical, option would be to proceed with the FAA approved and recommended EA, option 2A. This choice would be a new runway and taxiway that meets all the safety requirements of the FAA, doubles available hangar space, more than doubles tie down space and moves the runway north to add safety to the homes at the south end. Construction could start early spring next year unless the Commissioners block the approved plan.
The other option for the Commissioners is to reject the EA and start the process all over. Surprisingly, this option appeals to some of the uniformed Commissioners. The FAA has told the Commissioners that the citizens of Ravalli County will have to pay for a new EA if they start over. Which means the $200,000 tax dollars already spent will have been wasted by these commissioners. A new EA will cost the taxpayers of Ravalli County $100,000 to $200,000. Any problems with the EA then will require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Cost estimates on an EIS are well in excess of $1,000,000 and would take years to complete. Who will pay for an EIS? These commissioners don’t even know. They don’t have any idea all that has transpired and the actual difficult position they are putting themselves in. Ravalli County taxpayers could be on the hook for over a million dollars plus over runs and years more in delays just to get to where we are today. We are sure that tax money could be better spent on paving roads and not a Cadillac runway for the rich out-of-state visitors, who can land in Missoula.
The 3A option which some Commissioners are supporting comes with a price tag of $2-3 million more than 2A. The present airport engineering firm in January calculated that the cost to the county for new 2A airport construction would be $650,000. The Montana Aeronautics Association might pay for up to half of this cost but even at that where do the Commissioners get the $325,000? Add to this the additional $100-$200,000 for a new EA. Why would commissioners even consider this? In review of campaign contribution records we have noted that airport board members and others who stand to gain directly if the larger airport is constructed have contributed to the campaigns of a couple of the newly elected Commissioners. We certainly hope this is not a “political payback” costing the taxpayers of Ravalli County hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition to throwing out years of hard work and hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, these Commissioners are considering taking away your right to vote on an extended runway. Resolution 1244 was signed into county law years ago as a promise to the citizens by the sitting commissioners at the time, that no county tax dollars would be used to extend the runway without the citizens voting to spend their tax money on it. Now some Commissioners want to take away our rights. These Commissioners are out of control, unresponsive to the best interest of the public, are careless decision makers and are showing us their true colors. Tax and spend, expand government with eminent control, cater to the wealthy and take away voter rights by ignoring promises to taxpayers. These Commissioners should be recalled. They need to hear from you now. Call Ravalli County and leave messages on their voice mail, write letters to them and to the papers. Call members of ICAARE, offer to help and make a donation to help get the word out. You money, your rights, your clean air and quiet backyards are being taken away so a few have a convenience.