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Paonia trustees consider airport board appointment

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An appointment to the Delta County Airport Advisory Board by Paonia trustees was tabled at the June 28 meeting after trustees ended up with three names for consideration. A special meeting to discuss the appointment will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 12, prior to the regular town board meeting at 7 p.m.

The advisory board considers recommendations for both the Blake and North Fork Valley airports. The town is seeking to replace former representative Doug Long, a pilot who was appointed to the nine-member board in October 2014, and recently stepped down.

Mayor Charles Stewart explained that the town owns three quarters of the North Fork Valley Airport, located south of Paonia, and Delta County owns the remaining interest. In 2009 the town entered into an agreement with the county that clarifies ownership interests and specific rights and responsibilities with respect to capital construction, operation, maintenance and government of the 166-acre facility, as well as "financial contributions, past, present and future."

The airport, said Stewart, is a valuable asset to the town, and in 2009, was valued at $896,000. The town has an interest in ensuring this asset is financially viable for the town, said Stewart. "Clearly pilots have vested interest and their input is important. However, I do not believe that the airport should be run by pilots, for the benefit of pilots."

Stewart recommended former trustee and current town treasurer, Ross King, for the appointment for his "tremendous financial and high-level management experience..." He stated that King would look out for the interests of the people as a whole. Mayor pro tem David Bradford then motioned to appoint King, and trustee Bill Bear seconded the motion.

Trustee Suzanne Watson moved to table the discussion. Watson, who along with trustee Chelsea Bookout, serves on the Facilities and Development committee, said it's appropriate that the recommendation and motion should come from the committee. With no airport advisory board meeting scheduled until September, there is no rush to appoint a representative, said Watson. She suggested the board give the committee time to consider the issue. Her motion was backed by trustee Bill Brunner.

Bookout, who was elected to the board in April, said tabling the decision is a good idea. She pointed out that the airport was identified by several candidates as a subject of which they know very little at the candidate forum.

Brunner, a pilot, said he has "no financial stake . . . or conflict of interest" related to the airport. He volunteered to represent the town and said he would take it as a challenge "to try to find some way to help the airport produce some visible revenue." He cited rules and prohibitions, such as a ban on commercial activity, that could be lifted to allow more opportunities for the town to benefit from the facility.

Former trustee Eric Goold put his name in as a candidate. Goold stated that during his four years on the board, "There was nothing that was more secretive than the Airport Advisory Board." He agreed that tabling the discussion "is probably the right call, and here's why: No one was allowed to apply for this. You didn't consider anyone other than Mr. King for this board."

Goold said he believes the appointee should represent the public, and not the pilots. It should be someone who knows the history of the airport, and who doesn't directly benefit from the facility. "I'm willing to keep an open mind and think about different options," said Goold, who also supported King, but believes he has enough on his plate as the newly-appointed town treasurer.

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North Fork
Airport, Paonia
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