The board of Montana West Economic Development has researched the ballot issues surrounding the Kalispell Airport. We compared the economic impact of accepting FAA funds to upgrade the airport to FAA-recommended safety standards and that of not pursuing the FAA funds for upgrades or further maintenance.
The results of our research:
- The airport has a positive economic impact on the economy with aviation repair, maintenance and fuel sales jobs at the airport and also jobs at surrounding businesses.
- The realignment and lengthening of the runway combined with the removal of the radio towers was recommended for the purposes of improving safety and reducing noise.
- We have already paid the taxes to fund this improvement. The FAA collects taxes paid by all of us on commercial airline tickets and fees leveraged on private pilots.
- Based on their history there is no reason to doubt that the FAA would reimburse expenses for this project.
- Currently $150,000/year is being accumulated for maintenance at the airport. If the expansion and safety upgrades are completed, the airport can access those funds. With no expansion and no FAA funds, the airport would forfeit those funds and we estimate that taxpayers will have to cover $1 million in runway maintenance for asphalt in the future.
- Despite claims to the contrary, the airport breaks even on its operations. It is not able to cover its capital needs to invest in its assets. This is the purpose of the FAA funds and the aforementioned taxes that pilots and commercial flight passengers pay. Those taxes are intended to be used as an investment in community infrastructure.
- Opportunities to manage the airport as an economic development tool to attract new business to the community cannot happen without improvements. Recently a company with 20-30 repair and maintenance jobs located at the Missoula Airport rather than Kalispell due to a lack of commitment to airport improvements.
- This vote is not about closing the airport. However, costs associated with closing the airport would include up to $4.5 million to buy out current leases. Not to mention the costs of removing the runway and other buildings in order to prepare it for some other use. These significant expenses would have to be covered by the taxpayer.
Our research does not support the repeal of the city council’s original decision to improve the airport. We urge the citizens of Kalispell to consider these facts and vote Against the Repeal of Resolution No. 5572 for a positive impact on our economy, improved safety for our community and to protect city taxpayers from additional taxes.
Shane Jackola on behalf of the Montana West Economic Development’s Board of Directors.
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