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Paonia seeks applicants for airport advisory board

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The Paonia Board of Trustees is accepting applications from individuals interested in serving on the Delta County Airport Advisory Board. The town appointment is for a three-year term for an ex-officio, non-voting member.

The nine-member board consists of three representatives from Delta Blake Field Airport, three from the North Fork Airport, and three at-large members. The board advises the Delta County Board of County Commissioners on issues concerning development and operations of both airports. Applicants should have good communications skills and be willing to attend quarterly board meetings and report back to the town board of trustees. They should also be interested in the betterment of the North Fork Airport, keep the town updated on airport activities, be a Paonia or county resident, and have an interest in aviation or own a hangar at the North Fork Airport.

The Paonia board had planned to appoint a member at the June 26 meeting. After a nomination was made to appoint former trustee and current town treasurer, Ross King, who has no personal stake in the airport, trustee Bill Brunner, who is a pilot, and former trustee Eric Goold also expressed interest in the appointment.

Among its many uses, the airport has been utilized by Flight for Life and West Elk Mountain Rescue, and as a staging ground for firefighters. Brunner, a staunch advocate for the airport, noted in his town public safety committee report that in Delta County's hazard mitigation plan, the facility is listed as one of the county's major assets.

Paonia resident Larry Garrett, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, said at the July 12 board meeting that he believes the town should appoint someone who has knowledge of airport operations, has a positive image of it, and "who is a positive contributor to the endeavor."

In recent months, some of the town's trustees have asked for discussion on the possibility of selling the town's 70-percent ownership in the North Fork Airport. Some have suggested it benefits only a few pilots. Those comments created resentment from airport proponents, although the issue of selling the town's interest has never been put on an agenda.

"There's been some talk that pilots and those who use the airport are not a benefit to the town. I happen to disagree," said Paonia area resident and county airport advisory board secretary Dave Hiney. A pilot and owner of a plane and hangar at the North Fork airport, Hiney said he and his wife retired to the area, purchased a home here and spend their money locally. In addition, he has taken dozens of area residents flying both in the area and out of state. He built his airplane over a period of about eight years, paying for it as he went along.

"I kind of get irritated when I hear things about pilots up here are a bunch of rich guys," said Hiney.

Regarding the appointment, said Hiney, the town's representative "...should be someone who supports the airport and will contribute to the purposes of the board." That person should advise officials "on issues such as promotion of the airport to encourage tourism, increasing airport revenue so there is money for needed maintenance and repair so that the facility remain a viable, valuable asset to the county and the town.

"If there's anybody that's interested in making sure that airport works, it's pilots and people who use the airport."

Trustee Brunner asked Hiney to tell the board why he moved to Paonia.

"Because of this airport," said Hiney.

Those interested in submitting an application can contact the town at 527-4101.

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North Fork
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Airport, Paonia
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