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"Editorial: Regardless of plans, airport needs to be maintained"

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Regardless of plans, airport needs to be maintained
The Biddeford (ME) Journal Tribune

Letting assets go to waste due to lack of a funded maintenance plan is no
way to run a city. Unfortunately, that's what is happening with the
Biddeford Municipal Airport, as it is left to flounder due to council

The Biddeford City Council on Tuesday voted down a proposal to ask voters
for $200,000 to bring the airport up to Department of Environmental
Protection regulations, and earlier this month, they again refused to give
the go-ahead for Stantec Consulting Services to write grants - at no cost to
the city - that would get the rest of the recommended safety improvements
done at the facility. If the grant process is successful, the FAA would pay
95 percent of the cost for the safety improvements. But that process can't
begin without the council's approval.

The airport's safety deficiencies were identified seven years ago in a
master plan that the city created with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Seven years - that's a long time to have a city facility that is unsafe.

Why the wait? It's obviously not just about the money, since the city won't
be footing most of the bill. We know there is a vocal opposition to the
airport, but in a 2008 vote to close it down, voters resoundingly chose to
keep it. Obviously, most Biddeford residents - or at least those who voted
back then - think there's something good about having an airport in town.
And if the city is going to have one, it makes sense to maintain it rather
than let it go to ruin.

According to the master plan, the airport runway needs resurfacing, safety
overruns are needed at the ends of the runways, lighting needs upgrades,
fencing is suggested to keep people and animals off the runways, and tree
limbs need to be cut to allow a clear path for aircraft. Without these
safety improvements, the airport could open the city up to liability issues,
and in the worst-case scenario, it's conceivable that the FAA could shut it
down entirely. Is the council planning to wait for a fatal accident at the
airport before they'll take action? It seems that the FAA's safety
requirements are not being taken seriously.

Councilor Bradley Cote has said he doesn't want to invest money in the
airport without knowing how it fits into the plan for Biddeford's future.
And while that's important going forward, Cote and the rest of the council
need to realize that there can be no discussion of how to promote the
airport if it's in ruins.

We agree with City Manager John Bubier that inaction is not an option.
Biddeford voters want the airport, so the council needs to step up to the
plate on the maintenance plan. If they also want to develop a promotional
plan for the airport, all the better, but the safety improvements need to be
addressed now.

We hope that Airport Manager Tom Bryand's suggestion of having a workshop to
"figure out a plan for this airport" will be met with enthusiasm. It's clear
that the airport needs not only its management plan, but a promotional plan
as well. It will lead to improved use of this city asset, and help set
councilors' minds at ease when they are faced with funding the facility's

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