A Special meeting of the County of Dukes County Commissioners was scheduled for Monday, May 5, 2003 at 7:30 p.m. in the Conference Room of the County Administration Building, notice of such meeting having been posted as required by law.
Commissioners Present: Nelson Smith
Leonard Jason, Jr.
Absent: Robert Sawyer
John Alley, Chairman
Also Present: Dianne Powers, Acting County Manager
Marsha Smolev, Executive Assistant
Noreen Flanders, County Treasurer
TJ Hegarty, Rodent Control Officer, Airport Commissioner
Ezra Blair, MV Times
William Weibrecht, Airport Manager
George Balco, Chairman, Airport Commission
In the absence of the Chair and Vice-chair, Commissioner Leland chaired the meeting, calling it to order at 7:30 p.m. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Airport Improvement Program – Environmental Notification Form and prepare comments to be presented May 12th.
Sheriff McCormack reviewed history of the proposed site at the Airport for a new Jail and House of Corrections and noted that this Environmental Notification Form (ENF) did not include mention this project. He asked that the Commissioners respond in writing and also verbally because he was afraid that after May 12th, the opportunity to have a Jail on the Airport property could forever be lost. Commissioner Wey asked Airport Manager Weibrecht and Airport Commission Chair Balco why this was not included in the ten year plan.
Airport Commission Chair Balco agreed that the Airport Commission had, at their meeting on December 4, 2002, unanimously supported going back to their consultants and FAA and asking them to consider including the Jail. He added that the Master Plan did refer to the Jail but that it had been decided that it was not an appropriate use of the property due to the VOR and noise pollution. Mr. Balco said following the 12/04/02 meeting, the Airport Manager went to the FAA planner and discussed this and also reviewed it with Airways and Facilities people, but there has been no response yet from FAA. Mr. Balco suggested that the County put in a caveat stating that the County wants further consideration of the Jail and that the County would support modifying the Environmental Plan so that maybe the Jail could go ahead someday.
Mr. Weibrecht reviewed that there were two sides of the ENF, DEP thresholds and receiving state aid. He added that he was informed of the site visit planned for May 6 just last week.
The Sheriff said the County had also proposed a Public Safety Training Facility for the Airport site and this ENF only mentioned a Fire Safety Training Facility. The Sheriff also said that of these two projects, one went forward modified (eliminating Police and ambulance) and the other (the Jail) didn’t move forward at all. He noted the comprehensive study of the Northeast Quadrant that was done in 1988-1990 which said that it was a feasible site for the Jail and that noise wasn’t a problem and that a Jail there would have no effect on the VOR. The Sheriff said these differences in opinion needed to be finalized, that leaving these projects out at this point was a mistake. He urged the County Commissioners to reply in writing and put on record the need to include these two potential projects.
Commissioners Leland and Wey questioned why the projects weren’t included. Mr. Balco said the reason the projects weren’t included was that the Firefighting Facility was included for study in the Master Plan, but the Jail wasn’t. Commissioner Wey noted that there wasn’t even a reference to the Jail now.
Commissioner Jason called the Airport the ‘biggest asset.’ He said the Commissioners were told they’d have input in the Master Plan, only to find out now that what they wanted to see wasn’t included. He said, “It’s our Island, our Airport, and now they’re not there. Why?”
Mr. Balco said they were asked to go to FAA and they did. They requested reconsideration. Commissioner Jason said meanwhile, the Plan was moving ahead and “we’re getting picked off one by one.” Airport Commission Chairman Balco said the County owned the Airport, but the County couldn’t do whatever it wanted at the Airport, that there were restrictions. He said they were trying to get FAA to reconsider a Jail at the Airport. Commissioner Jason suggested that they stop what was going on while they figure this out, but Mr. Balco said that would be ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater.’ Commissioner Jason voiced concern about ending up with a plan we couldn’t live with and asked Mr. Balco to ask his Board to put the brakes on.
Mr. Weibrecht said the ENF was needed to get funds for projects.
Commissioner Leland asked if there had been correspondence in regard to the Jail in which the Airport Commission had made requests from FAA. Mr. Weibrecht said yes. Commissioner Leland asked that correspondence back and forth be shared with the County Commissioners so they could see if they were all on the same page.
TJ Hegarty, Rodent Control Officer and Airport Commissioner, said he was saddened to tell the Commissioners that as an Airport Commissioner, he could say that no letter had ever come across the table to be endorsed by the Airport Commission, no copies of letters from Balco or Weibrecht. Mr. Hegarty added that Mr. Balco said Mr. Weibrecht had communicated with FAA and that it was not Mr. Weibrecht’s position to deal with FAA. It was the Airport Commission’s position to deal with FAA and that hadn’t been done. Mr. Hegarty went on to say Mr. Balco ‘made sure’ there was no Airport Commission meeting for a month and that speaking for one other Airport Commission, Mr. Hegarty could say that they had not seen or been privy to this ENF. He added that he had not been notified of the next day’s site visit or the inspection that was happening. Mr. Hegarty continued that Mr. Balco was ‘operating his own little Airport Commission’ and that saddened him. He spoke of ‘Mr. Balco’s laughing and smirking’ and said taxpayers had to pay because ‘of his smugness.’ Mr. Hegarty said he had been on the Jail Study Task Force and that Mr. Villa had not made the Jail part of conversations with FAA. Mr. Hegarty asked why the Airport Commission hadn’t drafted and sent a letter to FAA and why the Airport Commission hadn’t voted on that letter.
Mr. Balco asked when Mr. Hegarty was appointed. Mr. Hegarty responded, January first. Mr. Balco said the Motion was in December, under a different Chair.
Commissioner Jason questioned what would happen if the Airport didn’t make the deadline for this. Mr. Weibrecht said the deadline was June 1, and it could affect studies for all of next year. Discussion continued with Mr. Weibrecht saying if he could get the funding he would, but that environmental studies depended on this Form. Commissioner Jason asked if not getting this done would delay things one year. Mr. Weibrecht said at least. There was some discussion about the letter lots in the Airport Business Park.
(Commissioner Strauss left the room from 8:04 to 8:08 PM)
Chairman Leland reiterated that the major concern was that the Jail location had been put on a back burner. Commissioner Jason said he didn’t see why there had to be such a big rush and that people needed the opportunity to know what was going on at their Airport.
Mr. Weibrecht left because of an inspection, at 8:11.
Commissioner Strauss, noting the short amount of time left before May 12th, suggested preparing a comment.
Commissioner Strauss Moved that the Commissioners submit a public comment
to the right agency and that the comment be that we request continued study and
consideration about incorporating a Jail on Airport property in a future revision of that document. Commissioner Wey Seconded the Motion.
Discussion followed. Sheriff McCormack said he’d been told not to worry about the Public Safety Training Facility and now it was a Firefighting Facility. The County had specifically proposed a Public Safety Training Facility to encompass ALL public safety, not just fire.
Commissioner Strauss Amended his Motion to include that the County requests
a reconsideration of what earlier was a Public Safety Training Facility and now
appears to be a more limited Firefighting Facility. Commissioner Wey Seconded
the Motion to Amend.
The Vote to Approve was Unanimous.
Commissioner Jason suggested asking for an extension. He said it may risk grant money but the whole Airport was at risk and the Public had a right to understand the plan. Commissioners Leland and Smith agreed.
Commissioner Jason Moved that the County Commissioners ask for an
Extension of time for the public comment period for the above reasons.
Commissioner Wey Seconded the Motion. The Vote to Pass the Motion was
Commissioner Leland reiterated his request for copies of correspondence to FAA from the Airport Commission regarding this issue.
Commissioner Strauss mentioned that he’d received an email from the MVC offering to meet later in the week to coordinate comments for May 12th.
Commissioner Jason Moved to adjourn. Commissioner Wey Seconded the Motion.
The Sheriff thanked everyone for meeting to discuss these issues. The Meeting adjourned at 8:31 PM.
Complete text of meeting is available on tape at the County Commissioner’s office.
JOSEPH E. SOLLITTO, JR.
CLERK OF THE COURTS