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Airport Authority Meeting August 20, 2019

The meeting, once again, started and centered around a slideshow presented by Steven Baldwin Associates Airport Management Consultants. Steven (presumably Baldwin) spoke about what is involved in the process of moving the airport commission to an airport authority.

FAA Transfer Process - The process of switching begins with passage of resolutions by Leelanau and GT counties per state law. The simplified process would include coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, which would have to agree to the process and timeline. The FAA is responsible for developing applications and documents among the key parties. Once the application is finished, the FAA has 90 days to approve the switch.

From what I understand, the airport will be responsible for paying for the transfer, using the consultant team to guide the process. According to the consultant team, it’s mandatory that the counties have a public hearing on the matter (15 to 30 days advance notice required, but it is not specified when the hearing would have to happen). Commissioner Coco mentioned he’d like to start the public hearing sessions early on in the process in case anyone has issues with the transfer.

Once the proper paperwork is submitted, the FAA coordinates and approves the transfer by the Secretary of the United States Department Of Transportation. The FAA has a list of key concerns, in general, that must be resolved before it’s approved. The key concerns include the property being held within good title, that there will be no economic discrimination, and that the Authority will protect against diversion of airport revenue.

The property conveyance includes two options. The first conveyance is a land lease (likely 40 years), issued by both counties. The other option is a “fee simply transfer”,where the authority would control the land, making it easier for the authority to sell or acquire property.

Reporting Process - the airport governance advisory committee will form recommendations and draft a report, then send the report to the Northwestern Regional Airport Commission with supporting resolution. The NRAC will review the report and recommendations, and send the report to the counties for consideration.

Presentation Wrap-up - Toward the end of the meeting, the consultant team conducted a straw poll among the commissioners to gauge interest in moving toward an authority. The board unanimously voted to switch to an authority, although it’s worth noting that this was an informal poll. The commissioners cited an authority having the ability to operate more like a business, for their reason to switch. Another reason often cited for supporting a change to an authority was the amount of knowledge and experience required for the majority to be a member of an authority, as elected officials can only make up as much as 45% of an authority board.

According to Airport Director Klein, an authority is more in line with how the board originally wanted to operate before their last agreement in 2005. It appears they were unable to make the necessary agreements back then, for reasons I’m not sure of.

After the straw poll, the board took public comment. Ted Iorio asked if the public could get bullet points of potential concern, along with a description of the process of switching to an authority. Ted also said that he’s concerned an authority could have too much power and “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Commissioner DeYoung stressed that the current board wanted the public to be as involved in this process as possible. He said he wanted the public to have more opportunities than required to provide input before the final decision to switch to an authority was made.

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