By John Fuller
In November, voters will have an opportunity to decide what to do about improvements to the Kalispell City Airport.
Like many local and municipal referendums, the people will vote on an issue that has the potential to affect everyone, spend millions of taxpayer dollars and will be smothered in hyperbole from advocates and opponents.
It will be difficult for the average voter to discern fact from fiction.
As the economy in the Flathead recovers, and it will in the next administration, more private aircraft owners will wish to access our pristine valley.
If you are one of those who cherishes prosperity, economic growth and the infrastructure it requires, you will be inclined to vote one way.
Increased private aircraft traffic will require capital improvements to the current facilities.
If you are one of those who promotes a medieval lifestyle and consequently views increased air traffic as an abomination, then you will be inclined to vote differently.
Opposing the improvement of infrastructure will satisfy your back-to-nature instincts.
Now that this writer has engaged in excessive hyperbole, let us face the real issue.
Are you as a voter willing to research the real opportunity cost of voting for or against this referendum?
If yes, you need to vote. If not, then don’t be a “low-information” voter and leave this issue to others.
By Joe Carbonari
Opponents of upgrading the Kalispell City Airport have raised three basic issues.
They are noise, safety and local taxpayer cost.
The opponents of upgrading to FAA standards, using almost exclusively FAA funds, which are derived through the taxation of aviation fuel, play on the fear that the FAA will not make good on its funding commitments.
This has not been the case in the past, nor is it a concern for other municipalities taking advantage of the economic development projects offered through the agency.
The risk is next to nil – considerably less, one might guess, than those associated with the unknowns that faced the farmers, ranchers, loggers and businessmen that built our valley.
If, however, the upgrades are not made, legal liability concerns will inevitably arise, and maintenance projects will either be left undone or paid for entirely out of city funds, since the $150,000/year for maintenance that the FAA is offering is contingent on the upgrades.
Our airport will not be going away in the near future.
We have ongoing contractual commitments that must and will be met. What is in the balance is whether we make upgrades that have significant safety, noise and financial benefits, or simply cover existing deficiencies and maintenance costs locally, thereby getting less and paying more.
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