Airport Update

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Thursday September 27, 2012

Noise mitigation. Finances. F-35. International travel. These are just a few issues associated with the Burlington International Airport (BIA), a Burlington-run yet South Burlington-located site that has been under scrutiny by surrounding municipalities in recent news.

The City of South Burlington, neighboring municipality leaders, congressional leaders, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and BIA officials have continued to tackle current issues such as the possibility of a F-35 beddown or organizing better airport governance; City Manager Sandy Miller brought South Burlington up-to-speed during the September 18 City Council meeting and the September 19 Steering Committee meeting.

The Airport Commission is chaired by Jeff Munger and includes four other commissioners  (Allen Newman, Bill Keogh, Jeff Schulman, and South Burlington resident Gene Palombo ) who have been onboard for less than four months. Palombo, who has been a major communicator between our city and the airport, was also present at the September 18 meeting.

At the meeting, Palombo shared that the FAA has reallocated money so the airport can purchase 12 homes; these homes are already included in the FAA Buyout Program.

The airport sent the Council a list of all the homes they have purchased, demolished, and slated for demolition. However, the numbers did not add up to the 200 homes said to be demolished or slated for demolition under the FAA Buyout Program, Council Chair Rosanne Greco said.

Numbers did not add up on Palombo’s end either. Palombo shared a legal brief with Council listing only 124 homes complete with the addresses.

“I still haven’t seen the full 200,” he said. “I’m not sure where they [the difference of homes] are.”

Council requested that Palombo find out exactly the number of homes BIA intends to purchase under the FAA Buyout Program, how many have they already purchased, and how many have been demolished or are slated for demolition.

Resident George Maille added that the BIA had been purchasing and demolishing homes since the early 1990s and that homes in the Park-and-Ride area plus homes at the intersection of Airport Drive and White Street are now being used as a temporary conditional use parking area and may not have been included in the count for 200 homes.

On the financial spectrum, Miller was invited along with selected individuals from other municipalities to meet with the FAA about funding mechanisms. The FAA shared alternative uses for some of their funding such as soundproofing homes and schools such as Chamberlin Elementary School. There will be future meetings with the FAA to discuss which alternatives are preferable since the funding phase of the Noise Compatibility Program regarding acquisition and demolition is nearly complete. The airport will now begin doing a new Part 150 Study Noise Compatibility Program since the current one is based on F-16 assumptions made in 2006.

Aside from Airport Commission news, Miller and Palombo are also part of the Airport Strategic Planning Committee, an initiative that Burlington Mayor Weinberger called for two months ago in order to develop a financial plan for the airport as well as develop a stronger, more organized governance.

There are nine representatives appointed by the City of Burlington. (A complete list of members is available at www.burlingtonvt.gov.) Miller and Winooski City Manager Katherine Decarreau represent municipalities outside of Burlington. South Burlington resident and former Councilor Meaghan Emery asked if all members were municipality leaders and if they all had a vote. At a meeting held September 24, the Burlington City Council passed a resolution adding Miller and Michael O’Brien of Winooski as voting members.

At the most recent meeting on September 13, Steven Baldwin of Steven Baldwin and Associates, Airport Management Consultants shared a presentation called “Comparable Analysis of Burlington International Airport.” Baldwin compared BIA to similar airports, and the PowerPoint presentation will be sent to Council and subsequently the city’s website once it becomes available. Currently, the Burlington International Airport Noise Monitoring data is on the site, and all Airport Strategic Planning Committee meetings are on the City of Burlington’s website.

Interested individuals may stay abreast of airport news by attending Airport Strategic Planning Committee meetings which are open to the public and  held every other Thursday, 5:30-7:30 pm in the Hamilton Room at the airport.The next meeting is scheduled for September 27.

In addition, SB Council officially added the Burlington International Airport to a list of priorities for 2012 during the September 18 City Council meeting.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent