Regionalizing the airport is the way to go

Posted: April 23, 2017 in Uncategorized
8a773b7c-8068-4afa-818c-006601f3ee80I expected it to be a pleasant Saturday and, having tuned up the old rototiller, was anticipating a little pre-season gardening. I hadn’t planned on reading the paper anyway, but the last thing I expected to see was a story about me on page one, above the fold. But there it was, for all to see, carefully arranged quotes purporting that I had told a city council committee that the Dillant-Hopkins Airport was not viable.
Overall, it was a very well-written story outlining my concerns about how little the airport had to offer the average Keene taxpayer. What it left out though, and please read the meeting minutes, was that I said the airport should be run by an independent, self-funding, regional transportation authority instead of Keene taxpayers.
Fast-forward to today. I had finished planting my peas, spinach, Swiss chard and beets, then went to the office for a couple hours. Opening the paper’s newly-redesigned Voices section, there it was again! Sentinel columnist John McGauley wrote that “…a city council member now thinks our airport is unnecessary…”
One seemingly innocuous omission from a front page story had taken on a life of it’s own. I hadn’t planned on correcting the omission. After all, to err is human, right? But now it seems that even Sentinel columnists are willing to stake their reputations on single-source reporting. When I was a reporter, that was a big no-no. (I forgive you, John, but you shoulda’ called).
Let me be clear. When the late Emile Legere bought six acres of cornfield in 2012 across the Ashuelot from the airport and a group calling itself “Friends of the Airport” asked the city to let him take test core samples of airport property, it became clear that there was regional interest in developing the languishing endeavor.
Senior city staff and several city councils and mayors had allowed the taxpayer-funded airport to run in the red for decades and I thought, “Wow, maybe now the professionals will get involved,” and asked for more details. But alas, Emile died and his dreams along with him.
Later, I thought maybe a regional role would be discussed by the committee charged with writing an airport master plan. But, I was denied an appointment to the city’s airport advisory committee, I think but hope not, because of my early criticism of the city’s handling of Federal aviation grants effecting the Edgewood neighborhood. I’m not optimistic that regionalization will be in that plan once it’s released later this year.
You can take a survey to express your feelings about the airport at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EEN_Master_Plan
Regionalizing the airport shouldn’t be a taboo subject. It is this area’s best hope for attracting economic development into the region.
The Sentinel recently wrote a series of excellent articles about regional ambulance troubles in the Monadnock Region. The topic of the annual City/County delegation centered on it and other problems local governments are having trouble dealing with alone. The Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce is in the middle of a series of roundtable discussions about transportation, housing and other regional topics. Heck, we even have a Joint Procurement Committee with the school district to bulk-buy toilet paper!
Cutbacks on the State and Federal levels have made life very difficult for local governments and I think it’s time we said, “Enough!’ and start banding together to share responsibilities and maybe, even go so far as to stop engaging in unfunded State and Federal responsibilities.
I’ll go back to my beans and potatoes now and wait for next Saturday’s paper.
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