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Commissioners give
go-ahead for airport transfer

Missoula County Airport Authority blesses transfer
with $9,000 in equipment to Aeronautics Division of Montana DOT

by Karen Lyncoln
For the Pathfinder
March 19, 1998

"Tell us what you hope to accomplish or are concerned about with this transfer of ownership," said County Commissioner Fern Hart as she opened the public meeting on the transfer of the Seeley Lake airport from the Missoula County Airport Authority to the Aeronautics Division of the Montana Department of Transportation at the March 16th Community Council meeting.

Commissioners Fern Hart and Michael Kennedy listened to public comments for over an hour. Based on what they heard, the Commissioners asked Michael Sehestedt, Deputy County Attorney, to draft a resolution to approve the transfer, including a provision that the airport can use water from a well completed for the adjacent County Shop. Sehestedt said that the resolution could be ready for a County Commission meeting within four to six weeks.

Dick Lewis, a member of the Seeley Lake Flying Club and the Friends of the Seeley Lake Airport, recapped the history of the airport, and pilots' attempts to get the County Airport Authority involved with maintenance and improvements at the strip. He urged the Commissioners to approve the transfer.

"I personally look forward to a cooperative effort with the State of Montana Aeronautics Division to upgrade and maintain the Seeley Lake airport," said Bob Wasson, as he requested the Commissioners to approve the transfer.

Mike Ferguson of the Aeronautics Division reported that the state is more than willing to accept the Seeley Lake airport. "I see this airport as an asset to the community and to economic growth in the area," he said. In response to Commissioner Kennedy's question about the amount of money available for airport, Ferguson reported that similar airports receive about $3,000 to $4,000 per year from the state. Ferguson also said that the Seeley Lake airport could be used year-round after agreements for plowing are finalized.

Rick Brighton of the Fly Inn said that he supported the transfer because year-round use would enhance safety by enabling Life Flight easier access to the Seeley Lake area.

Peter Van Pelt, newly-hired manager of the Missoula County Airport Authority, said, "We whole-heartedly support the transfer." He added that the County was also transferring approximately $9,000 of equipment to state.

After hearing other positive comments on the transfer from Doug Mood, Wade Cebulski, and Don Martin, Commissioner Hart asked if anyone wanted to speak on their concerns about the transfer. Anita Richards, Chair of the Community Council, noted that increased traffic and more noise had been mentioned in previous meetings as concerns.

"Use the Community Council as an opportunity for the community to hear about itself," said Commissioner Hart. Richards and Ferguson agreed that an airport advisory committee should be formed that would include a representative of the Community Council.

In other business before the Community Council, Paul Conn, Council member, updated the Council on organizational changes on the Community Hall Board. The Community Council and the Pinochle Club are now represented on the board. Cheri Thompson, Council member, is the Secretary/Treasurer of the Community Hall Board, and hall rentals will be handled at the NAPA store. Conn has replaced Allan Chaffin as the representative of the Sullivan family and is chairman of the board.

Zoe Mohesky, Missoula County Rural Planner, updated the Council on the Comprehensive Plan Amendment, and said she would have an information table at the chili dinner at the elementary school on Wednesday night. She hopes to have a tally of the most popular slides from the visual preference survey to share with residents.

Council members present at the March 16th meeting were Bruce Bourne, Paul Conn, Anita Richards, Dave Spence, Cheri Thompson, and Kevin Wetherell.

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Seeley Swan to Welcome

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