The airport director wants the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority to wait awhile longer before deciding whether to demolish a partially built administration building on airport property.
The hope is that the Bureau of Land Management might want to use the building for its new headquarters in Grand Junction.
While we're glad to see the airport facing up to the difficult challenge of what to do about this "white elephant," board members must be realistic about the long odds of converting the skeleton to a functional use.
It's not a bad idea to wait and see if the BLM is interested — if a move seems imminent. But that's not how things are shaping up. As soon as BLM officials announced a plan to move 84 percent of its Washington D.C.-based staff to points out West, Democrats on Capitol Hill began contemplating how to block the action. One idea is to bar funding for the move in the annual Interior-EPA appropriations bill.
But the complexion of the move changed even further after Interior Secretary David Bernhardt installed William Perry Pendley to a new position "exercising authority of the director" of the BLM. This is a position that normally requires a nomination and Senate confirmation. And Pendley's professional background as an anti-public lands crusader has conservation groups and former BLM employees fearful that Interior executed a 1-2 punch aimed at dismantling the agency.
On Wednesday, Western affiliates of the National Wildlife Federation wrote to House and Senate chairs of committees with Interior oversight asking them to take three actions:
"1. Demand that the administration revoke Mr. Pendley's appointment.
"2. Place a freeze on any BLM spending that would enable implementation of BLM's westward relocation until a BLM director is nominated, testifies before Congress on his or her beliefs about public lands, and is confirmed.
"3. Hold oversight hearings on BLM proposed restructuring to determine whether such a move is in the national interest and will protect public lands for future generations."
If any of these demands gain traction, it could delay when the BLM is in a position to actually choose office space — if it moves at all. So while there's some wisdom in "pressing pause" (once the building is demolished, all possibilities are gone, after all) the board should give itself a realistic deadline to make a decision on the building. It can't wait forever for an answer that could likely be "no" anyway.
We would argue that putting the BLM steps away from the airport terminal is not necessarily a good thing. It would make the BLM a cloistered agency with officials flying into Grand Junction to conduct business without actually mingling with the people who live here. That's not much different than the problem the BLM move is supposed to solve.
If BLM does not want to use the building, the airport has no immediate need for it, nor does it have $9.5 million to make it useful. So board members have to decide what's a reasonable time to wait. They'll get a chance to discuss it at a workshop in October.
Something needs to be done to that building. Housing the BLM would be a happy ending to a sordid saga. But the airport board shouldn't hold its breath. It's time to fish or cut bait.
At some point the airport authority needs to clear the decks to move toward a brighter future for the airport.