September 26, 2017

Letters to the Editor

A better way to govern Burlington International

Ongoing conflict has marred the relationship between Burlington International Airport and its municipal neighbors for years, evidenced by expensive lawsuits over property taxes, military operations, home demolitions and more. This conflict is putting Vermont at a disadvantage on the regional landscape, making neighboring cities like Plattsburgh more attractive for private investment and air travelers. The root of this conflict is the abnormal governance structure of Burlington International Airport. It is currently managed as a department of a municipality (Burlington) the airport does not reside in. This governance structure fails to incorporate the interests of communities affected by airport operations and skews decision-making toward the interest of Queen City voters, at the expense of the greater region. The director of aviation is a political appointment made only by the City of Burlington, and the five-member airport commission is advisory only (with four of the five seats appointed only by the City of Burlington). Winooski requested a seat on the commission, but was denied. The director of aviation and the Burlington mayor are making critical decisions with far-reaching impacts that extend well beyond Burlington’s borders, creating perpetual friction for this public asset. Burlington International Airport is a publically funded asset, afforded tax benefit as such, and should therefore be governed by a regionally represented board like the vast majority of all other airports in this country.

The City of Burlington does not own the airspace of the Champlain Valley. This airspace is a public good and needs to be governed as such, giving a voice to all stakeholders directly impacted by the use of this natural resource. The airport should be disentangled from the City of Burlington into a separate operating entity like an airport authority governed by a regionally representative board aligning more political capital from area interests.

This re-alignment would increase the competitiveness of the airport on the regional landscape through improved contractual flexibility, increased bonding authority and broader industry informed perspectives guiding the direction of the airport. Syracuse Hancock International Airport did this when it transitioned from a city owned airport to a public airport authority in 2012 for many of the same reasons. It is time for the municipalities that have a direct interest in the success of Burlington International Airport to address this issue, because there is a better way to govern an airport.

Thomas Chittenden South Burlington City Council member

Looking for legislative pages

Attention students and parents of Williston eighth-graders for the upcoming school year: Are you interested in public affairs or politics and getting to know students from around the state?? If so, you may be interested in becoming a legislative page, and now is the time to act. Your application is due by Sept. 30 to the Sergeant-at-Arms at the Statehouse. Each year, 30 students in Vermont are selected. Ten students serve in one of three, six-week sessions. Each week is four days so that one day is spent in school. More information and the application can be found at leg.state. vt.us. Click on staff and offices, then Sergeant-at-Arms and then Legislative Page Program. Your state representatives are ready and willing to assist, interview and write letters of recommendation for you. Contact Rep. Jim McCullough at jim_mccullough@myfairpoint.net or 878- 2180 and Rep. Terry Macaig at macaig@msn.com or 878-3872. This is a highly competitive appointment, but worth seeking. You work four days a week for six weeks and even get paid for it. Reps. Jim McCullough and Terry Macaig Williston

Adams Farm steps up with flower donation

As the summer rains fell and moisture accumulated under the huge trees at the Ronald McDonald gardens in Burlington, the flowers planted and maintained by Burlington Garden Club members were stunted and did not thrive as in years past. Adams Farm Market on Old Stage Rd. in Williston stepped in and donated trays of annual flowers to beautify the gardens. The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Burlington provides a home away from home for families with seriously ill children seeking treatment at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital. Whether for a short stay or for weeks at a time, they provide families with the comforts of home, as well as the support of dedicated staff and volunteers. The gardens there were adapted as a therapy project of the Burlington Garden Club in 2009. Club members maintain the gardens May through October. Doris Van Mullen Burlington Garden Club

New life for former Monette farm

Long-time Williston business owner and Chittenden County resident Laura Handy recently purchased the former Monette Farm on South Road. She plans on breathing new life into the once-crumbling farm by opening it up to the community as an event center. Claims in a prior letter to the editor (“Event barn proposal out of line” Aug. 3) that the farm will negatively impact neighbors are misguided. First, Ms. Handy and her family have a history of responsible and successful investment in the Williston community. Ms. Handy’s father came to Vermont over 50 years ago and built a business from the ground up. He and his children, who now own and operate the business, always strive to support the community in which they have lived and worked their entire lives. Their father realized his dream in Vermont and loved his community. He wanted to see it thrive. So does Ms. Handy. Second, Ms. Handy’s proposal will add options to Williston residents and others throughout the state for another event space of this kind. Competition will only help Williston residents who wish to make use of the space for a wide variety of events. Any claims against use of the property as an event space inhibit competition and hurt the community. Finally, I have worked in Williston for over 20 years, and I have been excited to see its growth, always underscored by a focus on preservation. This proposal will carry on that tradition and provide Williston residents (and others) with another option to host events at a venue where they can experience first-hand what makes Williston great. Mario Herceg Colchester

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