Kalispell City Council voted 5-4 on Monday to upgrade the city airport to B-II design standards with federal Airport Improvement Program money, as recommended in a planning study by Stelling Engineers.
Council members Jim Atkinson, Randy Kenyon, Jeff Zauner, Wayne Saverud and Kari Gabriel voted in support of the project.
It was opposed by Mayor Tammi Fisher, Phil Guiffrida III, Tim Kluesner and Bob Hafferman, who continued to push to either “leave the airport as it is” or put the proposed B-II upgrade on the ballot for voters to approve or reject.
Saverud, the swing vote in every airport vote this year, said he sees the B-II project not as an airport expansion, but as a project to make the airport safer.
“If we have a general aviation airport, I want it to be the best it can be, and by the best I mean safest. To do that, I believe we must leverage [Federal Aviation Administration] funding, and for that reason I will support the motion to realign and lengthen the runway and shift helicopter activity south to reduce noise issues,” he said.
The estimated $16 million project is estimated to take the better part of a decade to complete. It now must clear an environmental assessment before advancing.
Saying that he speaks for “hundreds” of Kalispell residents who are opposed to the project, airport opponent Scott Davis vowed to put the B-II project on the ballot and defeat it in the November 2013 general election.
“You can vote tonight and save the taxpayers some money, knowing we will prevail on this vote. Or you can vote for it. But we still will have that election and we will win it,” he said.
READ MORE in the Wednesday print edition of the Inter Lake.
Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at email@example.com.