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Airport Governance Advisory Committee and Airport Commission

were 2 meetings held on the same day with mostly the same people present. The first was almost 3 hours and started with a very informative tour of the airport behind the scenes. The next 2 hours were spent reviewing the various models of airport governance. This was done by the firm of Steven Baldwin Associates, Airport Management Consultants. They have been hired to educate the BOC and the Airport Commission about their options. And then probably write up the legal papers to complete the changes.

After an afternoon of discussion, I am going to summarize the issues.

  • The charter for the airport is about 30 years old and has many provisions that are not allowed in the FAA grants and loans. They need to be changed to be in compliance in order to apply for federal money, the major source of capital improvements.

  • One of the two models is a Commission with members appointed by the 2 counties, Leelanau and Grand Traverse, as is now the case. The charter agreement would be updated and it would continue much as it is now with a 7 member Commission.

  • The other major model is an Airport Authority. This would still be a board with locally appointed members.

  • They were asked if either or both models allow for the airport to purchase needed property without BOC consent. They seemed to reply that it depended on how the agreement was written.

  • Another concern was the liability of the counties if the airport went bankrupt. With an authority, the counties would not be liable. Currently under the existing agreement they are.

  • A member from Leelanau asked for a list of pros and cons for each model and this is supposed to be brought to the next meeting the at the airport second floor.

  • My understanding is that either model may protect the counties from liability for debts if the agreement is written with that provision. However, no straight answer was given.

  • The same ambiguity exists for acquiring property.

The regular meeting had the good news that it is feasible to have a solar panel array that could supply the airport and TCL&P. They just completed the first phase of a study which has been going on for about 6 months. This study considered solar arrays of various sizes as well as geothermal sources of power. The commission has now authorized the second phase which will be setting up the bidding process for approximately 50 acres of solar panels and checking how this could integrate with TCL&P. The commissioners were very excited about the possibility of producing 10 Kilowatts on site.

They are also beginning a process of getting a specialized landing system (ILS) that will enable landings when the wind is from the east. A similar system is installed at the east end of the runway for west wind approaches. Currently they must reroute about 100 flights a year because the wind from the east makes the landing possibly unsafe. They have the infrastructure for this system from when they lengthened the runway. This may be a several year process to obtain the equipment but they are starting the plan now.

Most of the rest of the agenda was housekeeping types of resolutions and reports. One interesting point was that a commissioner suggested expanding the meeting room. Having an audience seems to resulting in them wanting more space.

My usual statement is that this is my understanding of the meeting and I could make a mistake in understanding something. But I am trying to be an outside set of eyes and ears.

Linda Pepper

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