Consultant describes scope of airport expansion study

Published on Thu, Jul 25, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Consultant describes scope of airport expansion study

By Meg Olson

Airport consultant David Ketchum told Blaine city council they could expect to see the first draft of his recommendations for Blaine’s airport in a few weeks.

Ketchum presented a scope of work and project timeline for the airport expansion feasibility study at the July 22 city council meeting. “I’ll do as objective a study as I possibly can,” he said. “I believe an airport can help a community to prosper but I don’t believe bigger and better is always best. Some of the recommendations I make, even if they involve development,, may not recommend it happen now.”

Ketchum, whose Whidbey Island consulting firm Airside specializes in planning for small and mid-sized airport, was retained by the city in June for $12,000. His task is to cast an outside eye on airport commission plans to extend the runway and develop new airport facilities and come back with recommendations.

“I want to get to know this airport as well as I know any,” Ketchum said. He plans to start by studying current airport conditions. “It’s important to know where we are before we see where we want to go,” he said.

He will then look at airport commission expansion plans, which include a longer runway to accommodate larger airplanes, a new terminal building for air commuters, and land acquisition to accommodate further development by private industry. “Extending the runway will make the airport available to many other types of aircraft and additional land will make the airport more financially viable,” said airport commission chairman Doug Fenton.

How the proposed expansion will impact the community and the environment will form the kernel of the study. ‘There are always impacts and we want to look at them carefully,” Ketchum said. He plans to hold a public workshop in mid-August to gauge community reaction to a bigger airport. “My goal would be to have sort of a planning party for people who may have a different perspective,” he said.

Finally, Ketchum will look at the bottom line – options for the city to fund the expansion and how the bigger airport would pay for operations.
Bonnie Onyon wanted to clarify that the study wasn’t about whether or not Blaine needed an airport, but whether the one already here should grow. “You aren’t looking at should we or shouldn’t we have an airport,” she said. ‘We’ve already done that.” Ketchum agreed. He said the final study would contain recommendations on how the airport should grow in simple terms. “I will not deliver an engineering document,” he said. “I want to write in simple terms so everyone can understand what the plan means.”

In other business, council voted to put a street maintenance levy on the ballot in September but took the advice of finance director Meredith Riley to trim the amount by a few cents.

“If we set it at 53 cents it gives us a little leeway with the general levy,” she said. “Fifty cents is a nice round number. At a July 8 work session council members decided to ask voters to approve the bulk of funding for a street maintenance program to keep city streets from crumbling. The catch is, if the extra levy is approved at the level council suggested, it would max out the city’s taxing capacity and the general fund levy could not increase the one percent allowed by law.

City manager Gary Tomsic said the September election date meant little time to educate the public about why the levy was needed. “I don’t know that we can mobilize a group of citizens to promote this,” he said, but added it was a better choice than the November election. ‘There will be a lot of political noise in November we could easily get lost in.

The city will hold a series of public meetings prior to the election to make the case for the street levy...

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