Aviators discuss ways to boost Grand Junction airport’s standing
The loss of businesses, inaccessibility of visiting pilots and their families to shop in town and a deteriorating reputation of the airport among those in the general aviation community at Grand Junction Regional Airport has to stop, members of Grand Junction City Council said on Wednesday.
Just how to reverse that trend was the topic of yet another meeting for the city board.
“I, for one, can’t watch half the airport prosper and watch the other half go down the drain,” Grand Junction Mayor Tom Kenyon said.
City Council members agreed Wednesday night to draft a letter Grand Junction’s Airport Authority board to request they keep open gates — at least during the daytime hours— that have been installed on Aviators Way and Navigators Way. Council members also plan to meet with Mesa County commissioners to garner support against gates, and if necessary and if they are agreeable, dissolve the Airport Authority board.
Grand Junction Regional Airport is a joint city and county entity, though neither directly contribute tax revenue to operations. However, both governments assign board members to posts on the board and elected officials from the city and county must sign off on grants the airport receives.
City Council members have become increasingly frustrated with the results of security gates that separate general aviation businesses and hangars from the public unless a person has a security badge.
Members of the Airport Authority have said they, too, didn’t want to have to install the gates and an overall security fence, but the measure was approved as a sufficient plan by the Transportation Security Administration to control security at the airport. TSA did not mandate the Airport Authority to construct the fence, but the federal agency does require the Airport Authority to control access at the airport. If not, the federal government can discontinue commercial flights to the airport, a prospect Airport Authority members said they’ve been warned of by the feds.
For months, general aviation pilots have packed council chambers or meetings of the Airport Authority board to protest the gates, among other issues.
Council members said they have directed the city’s attorney, John Shaver to look into the city’s options for forcing the airport to keep the gates open.
There is no evidence that Aviators Way and Navigators Way are city-owned streets, Shaver said, but the city did not approve a permit for the gates to be closed on those roadways.
“It is a flaw, but I don’t know if it’s a fatal flaw,” Shaver said.
Council member Bennett Boeschenstein said he was willing to challenge the Airport Authority on grounds that a master plan for a fence around most of the airport did not include a plan to gate areas in general aviation.
“I think we could force the issue to keep the gates open. Period,” he said.
City council members have become more vocal lately about issues at the general aviation side of the airport, especially after hearing testimony from pilots who bypass Grand Junction because of the hassle of the new security gates. Pilots and others who own hangars also stated concerns about businesses that have left or are threatening to leave Grand Junction’s airport because the gates are unfriendly for business.
“We want security, but it has to be reasonable,” Kenyon said.