At its work session Monday, Kalispell City Council heard City Airport Manager Fred Leistiko’s plans to move the towers of the KGEZ radio station out of the city airport’s airspace, and told him to bring the proposal before council for a vote at an upcoming meeting. The Federal Aviation Administration has indicated it will not free up financing for the city’s airport expansion until the towers are mitigated.
“If we don’t move forward with the towers, we don’t move forward with the airport expansion,” Interim City Manager Myrt Webb said.
Leistiko told the council he and Webb recently met with station owner John Stokes to explain the city’s plans to take down the existing towers and erect two new towers. Leistiko said Stokes did not agree with the procedure but didn’t want to comment on the plan until receiving it formally, in writing.
Broadcast engineers hired by the city have found 20 acres of land suitable for relocation of the towers, and Kalispell has acquired an option on that land. Three adjacent landowners must give approval for easements to have radials associated with the new towers buried. Two landowners have given tentative approval and a third is reviewing the proposal.
If Stokes objects to the city’s actions, Leistiko has said Kalispell will condemn the towers and substitute the new towers at no cost to Stokes. The cost is estimated at $500,000 and the FAA has indicated it will pay for a portion of the work.
Councilman Bob Hafferman said he did not think condemnation was appropriate in this case, since the conflict is essentially between two interest groups, city airport users and KGEZ’s audience.
“If we go into condemnation, we’re probably talking about many years,” Hafferman told Leistiko.
“Quite frankly, I can’t see why, if you’ve got a good proposal, I can’t imagine (Stokes) turning it down, but if he does, we’ve just got to wait him out,” Hafferman added. “I think we can get it done by cooperation rather than by forcing us on him.”
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