Airport decision revisited

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Kalispell City Council members on Monday face a second showdown in as many months over charting a course of action for the city’s 83-year-old general aviation airport.

Back in May, the council by a 5-4 vote passed a resolution to put the matter of future airport investment on the ballot for Kalispell voters to decide in November’s general election.

That decision has come under fire from some council members.

At a work session on ballot language last week, council members Jim Atkinson, Randy Kenyon and Jeff Zauner pushed for a vote to repeal that referendum resolution and put the airport’s future back before the council.

Atkinson argued that the council should decide what to do with the airport.

“I think that’s what the voting public votes us in for, to make these decisions, to make wise decisions and go forward,” he said.

If the resolution to repeal the referendum fails on Monday, the council would move on to consider the proposed ballot language hashed out at last week’s work session.

The proposed language gives voters two options for the airport:

Option A: The city should undertake an airport upgrade and expand to a B-II facility funded by local dollars and Federal Aviation Administration money;

Option B: The city should leave the airport “as is,” solely supported by local dollars and not accepting Federal Aviation Administration money.

In May, Mayor Tammi Fisher and council members Bob Hafferman, Tim Kluesner and Phil Guiffrida III pushed to “rehabilitate the airport ‘as is’” using money from a tax increment finance district that sunsets in 2020.

When that effort failed 5-4, they pushed for the referendum, which passed 5-4. Council member Wayne Saverud was the swing vote in both motions. It’s not clear if he intends to change his mind.

At last week’s work session, Fisher and Hafferman continued to speak in favor of the referendum and voters’ ability to decide a long-running airport issue.

Voters, Fisher told Atkinson last week, “are articulate enough to say, ‘Do we want to upgrade and expand this partially with FAA funds and local dollars or maintain it in its current footprint with local taxpayer dollars?’”

Ballot language is limited to a 100-word preface and two 25-word ballot options, with a significant amount of local tax money at stake in either outcome. The referendum alone is estimated to cost $10,000.

In other business Monday, the council will:

• Consider selling .62 acres of city property near the corner of Three Mile Drive and North Meridian Road. Given to Kalispell by the state, the land is left over from a 2006 project to improve the intersection.

• Consider a $16,360 federal grant to replace a radio repeater at Buffalo Hill Golf Course. The current repeaters’ charging system had a failure last week and the new one helps meet a Federal Communications Commission 2013 narrow banding mandate.

• Recognize Joan Jellison, who stepped down from the police commission after serving on the board for 37 years.

• Appoint Craig Woods to the city’s revolving loan fund committee and council member Jeff Zauner to the impact fee committee.

Monday’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. in Kalispell City Hall, 201 First Ave. E. It is open to the public.

Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at tlotshaw@dailyinterlake.com.

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