Airport accountability put before county commission candidates

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Rose Pugliese speaks during a forum Wednesday evening at Colorado Mesa University for Republican candidates for the Mesa County Commission. Also shown at the candidates table are, from left, Wes D’Aponti, Ken Henry, John Justman and Ed Stephens, who are candidates in District 1, and Paul Nelson and Woody Walcher, who are candidates, with Pugliese, in District 3.

A majority of the Republican candidates seeking the two Mesa County Commission seats said Wednesday night the board should more closely monitor the actions of the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority, with some criticizing the airport board and suggesting changes should be made in light of decisions that have angered general-aviation tenants.

Five of the seven candidates responded to a question about how commissioners could control spending by the airport board. It was posed by an audience member during a 90-minute forum sponsored by the Colorado Mesa University College Republican Club.

District 3 candidate Paul Nelson said even though the vast majority of airport funding comes from the federal government, commissioners have a chance to offer input on how it’s spent and otherwise exert their influence when they sign off on receiving Federal Aviation Administration grants and by “getting the right people” on the board.

“The current Airport Authority isn’t accountable to the public,” Nelson said.

Fellow District 3 candidate Rose Pugliese said commissioners should ask more questions of the airport board. District 1 candidate John Justman said commissioners should sit down with the Grand Junction City Council and talk about how the airport board is functioning. District 1 candidate Wes D’Aponti said the commissioners need to appoint board members who are “going to best benefit Mesa County” and suggested changes should be made. District 1 candidate Ed Stephens said the airport must remain friendly to the general-aviation community and encouraged “common sense” in the board’s decision-making.

District 3 candidate Woody Walcher and District 1 candidate Ken Henry didn’t answer the question. The forum was organized so that candidates weren’t required to answer questions from the audience.

District 1 candidate Christi Flynn didn’t attend the forum.

In all, eight GOP hopefuls, District 1 unaffiliated candidates Jana Gerow and John Leane and District 3 Democratic candidate Dave Edwards are seeking to replace District 1 term-limited Commissioner Craig Meis and District 3 term-limited Commissioner Janet Rowland in November.

As for the rest of Wednesday night’s forum, candidates disagreed on little and spent much of the time championing party platforms, advocating for limited government and fiscal restraint and panning governmental regulations on the energy industry.


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