City Council, mayor, to take a more active role with airport
By Tom Kenyon
Over the course of the last few months, there has been a lot of discussion in the community about the Grand Junction Regional Airport and the Airport Authority Board. The most notable action has been the construction of a gated security fence, supported by the federal government.
The gates are now closed. This security-system fence makes it more difficult for business owners on airport property to come and go and to operate in the manner to which they had been accustomed. They also believe that it will negatively impact their businesses and their ability to remain viable. Many of these business owners and pilots have reached out to the City Council to see if we will listen to their issues and bring them back to the Airport Authority Board.
In response, City Council first hosted a joint meeting with the airport board on Oct. 17 to discuss the situation with the board and to establish some background. The meeting was a step toward better communication between the city and the board. We intend to continue to meet with the board on a regular basis, which is not something that has happened in the past.
Following this meeting and more City Council discussion, we decided to take additional steps in an attempt to hopefully bolster relations between business owners, the flying public and the airport. I want to take this opportunity on behalf of City Council to let people know what our plans are and to provide a little background on the reasons.
One of the first steps we took was to appoint the mayor to the Airport Authority Board. City Councilman Bill Pitts had been our appointee to the board, and he offered to leave his seat in return for my appointment, hoping this might bring some clarity to the role City Council plays with the board.
Currently, City Council has the right to appoint three airport board members, and one of them has historically, per bylaws, been a City Council member.
I intend to use my membership on the board to further the role the airport provides our community and explore what issues may exist and to understand the requirements of the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration. I also intend to explore what options are available to mitigate the impact on the businesses and yet still reasonably provide security.
My appointment to the board is supported by City Council. Also supported by the council is a commitment that the city will not sponsor any more grants for Grand Junction Regional Airport until we are comfortable all possible solutions to the current situation have been genuinely exhausted.
Our next step was to write a letter to the president of the Airport Authority Board. In that letter, dated Nov. 1, we outlined my appointment to the board as well as our desire to meet with the board, along with the Mesa County commissioners, on a more regular basis.
We will also be holding a public hearing, which will be open to the public, on Dec. 7 during a regularly scheduled City Council meeting at 7 p.m. in City Hall. It is our intent to gather all comments related to the situation at the airport. We expect the topics to include the security fencing and the new access gates, as well as other issues with board and constituent relations. We will also be inviting the FAA and the TSA.
Our primary purpose for is to hear from the tenants, the public and users of the airport, with our focus on listening and learning.
The results of this public hearing will likely guide what our next steps might be or what decisions we may have to consider making. We will see where things stand at that time.
As we move forward, we hope to work toward a productive and collaborative relationship with the Grand Junction Regional Airport in an environment that is supportive of the businesses of the Grand Valley and recognizes the important role aviation plays in our economic health. This is too important to this community to have it any other way.
Tom Kenyon is the mayor of Grand Junction.