City declares radio towers a hazard

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The KGEZ radio towers are a hazard to air navigation at Kalispell City Airport and need to be relocated or removed, the City Council formally decided Monday night.

To make that happen, the city will have experts determine the value of the work and make an offer to radio station owner John Stokes. If he refuses the offer, the council directed city officials to consider condemning the towers so it can take ownership and remove them.

If all else fails, the council is prepared for a legal battle with Stokes.

Several citizens told the council before its discussion began that they supported the resolution. Locals as well as tourists want the towers removed, they said; future expansion will require it, according to Federal Aviation Administration clearance regulations.

The biggest leaseholder who built hangars at the airport, a commercial pilot, said, "I think it's time to move forward on removing the hazard at the end of the runway."

Not everybody likes the idea, though. Airport neighbor Scott Amos said he doesn't oppose tower removal or possible airport expansion, but protested the potential for low-flying jets.

"I've been told that if this is improved to a B2 airport, we'll have low-flying jets over our schools, our gardens, our back yards," Scott Amos said.

City Airport Manager Fred Leistiko later explained that the B2 designation would allow microjets, but said they actually are more efficient and quieter than the propeller-driven planes and turboprops that operate there now.

In his report, Leistiko pointed out that this has been a concern for several years.

"It's past due the time to do this," Leistiko said. "The safety problem lies directly on the shoulders of the city of Kalispell" and not on the Federal Aviation Administration.

Only towers that intrude into the navigational air space are the concern, he said, not the real estate, buildings, business or license connected with the land or KGEZ Radio.

Council member Hank Olson wanted to amend the resolution to avoid paying Stokes for relocation or removal, then have to go back to court if he did not do the actual work.

Council eventually agreed, on an 8-1 vote, to add a provision that the council would become the owner of the towers if Stokes were to accept payment, and it would have the right to remove them.

For more on this story, see Wednesday's Daily Inter Lake.

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