I wish to thank Editor Dan Engler and the Verde Independent reporting staff for bringing to light Council Member Michael Mathews’ private views and his behind the scenes actions regarding the airport.
Thanks also to Mayor Elinski, Council Member Henry and City Manager Ron Corbin for reiterating their pledge to encourage and welcome input from all city residents regarding city business.
At the risk of stating the obvious, I think it is pretty clear that many Cottonwood city residents would have no objections to expanding business at an busy pre-existing city airport located well out of the city limits.
Unfortunately our city airport is within the city limits and scarcely a mile from most city residences. Until recently it has never been a busy airport but more of a landing strip for a few planes a day. Because of its location many of us felt that was not likely to change.
The current upsurge in activity from Prescott’s flight schools and the city’s inclusion of the airport in its strategic plan have changed all of that.
So the questions as I see it are:
What should be our plan for the airport going forward? and
Who should pay for the airport?
The city council’s answer to these questions is to find ways to make the airport busier because they see more activity as both an economic driver for community development and a way to cover some of the costs of operating the airport.
I disagree that a busier airport is good for Cottonwood mostly because it is within a mile of most city residences. I think it is more likely to inhibit growth over the long term much as it is starting to do in Sedona.
My answer to the second question is that users should pay to use the airport. They should pay not only to store their planes but also to take off and land.
It is my understanding that as airport owners we have the right to impose fees as long as they are imposed on everyone using the airport.
These fees would at least partially offset the cost of operating the airport in conjunction with the lease income from the airport lessee.
More importantly they would tend to limit activity at the airport especially the flight school touch and go exercises that have ramped up recently due to crowded conditions at the Prescott airport.
They have the added advantage of putting some of the burden of operation on the users instead of the taxpayers in line with the way we fund much of our other public facilities like our recreation center.
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