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Hailey mayor concerned about airport progress

Idaho Mountain Express

Published: Monday, Feb. 18 2013 9:21 p.m. MST

KETCHUM, Idaho — Blaine County officials aren't serious about considering a new location for an airport to serve passengers flying into the resort area of central Idaho, the mayor of Hailey says.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports in a story published Friday that Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said Blaine County officials are "just giving lip service" to the idea of a replacement airport for Friedman Memorial Airport located in Hailey.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the airport should be improved or moved because expanding residential areas and high hills make the current airfield too dangerous for larger aircraft.

In January the agency gave approval to the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority to pursue two possible paths to improve safety.

One path involved improving the current airport and the other involved planning for a replacement airport.

Haemmerle, who is also a board member of the Airport Authority, said he's concerned temporary improvements to the current airport could become a permanent solution.

"It seems the county wants to move forward with a vague process, the vaguest of vague processes, and just talk about a dual path," he said. "If you just want to give lip service to the dual path, be honest about that. If you don't really want to move forward with relocation, then be honest about that."

While the FAA worries about the safety of the airport and local residents have complained about noise, others are concerned about the potential loss of commercial service and the economic damage to Blaine County, where the popular tourist destinations of Sun Valley and Ketchum are located.

Blaine County Commissioner and Airport Authority member Larry Schoen said the county is concerned about paying for a new airport.

"In order for us to be successful in the long run, we must consider early in the process how we're going to pay for a replacement airport," he said. "Are we going to go about a site selection process before we've even talked about how we're going to pay for a replacement airport?"

A plan to move the airport south stalled when expenses soared to more than $300 million, forcing officials to consider expanding the current airport to meet federal standards.

In August of 2011, the FAA said it had stopped work on an environmental impact study on a new airport because of the increased costs and potential impacts on wildlife.

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