Airport candidates in their own words: Connie Stevens | SierraSun.com
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Airport candidates in their own words: Connie Stevens

Would you support the construction of another runway (two runways detailed in the Master Plan), and why?Turf runway. Runway 28, right? I would only consider the construction of that runway as a deterrent to increased noise to the communities that are at the end of 28 right now. That will move some of the noise over because it’s going to be a much shorter runway. It’s not a longer one; it’s a shorter one. You can only take off and land smaller-engined aircraft on that runway, so my concern would be the only reason that I would support it is because the Town of Truckee as a council would request such an alleviation from the noise issues that are out there in the future. Now, when you look at the development of the Town of Truckee today and the planning process that has gone on for further development – it hasn’t stopped, it’s not going to stop in our lifetime, at least not in mine. My sense is that what I want to see is that we’re all open to discussions on how to mitigate the issues with noise. Airplanes make noise, and that’s what this is all about – airplane noise. And this is one way, 28, not as a turf runway, but also as an asphalt or turf runway, would certainly make sense to have it to mitigate some of that noise, to move over the training traffic … I’m a believer that that would definitely disperse a lot of the noise people are now complaining about with the continuous training flights that happen in the summer.So you would only back it if the Town of Truckee requested it?Yes, and/or in were in agreement that that was a way to alleviate some of that noise, that’s the issue in the summer. Noise is an issue all the time, but predominately we’ve seen that activities increase in every facet of recreation in our area in the summer.Would you support the construction of the de-icing facility, and why?Well, what is a de-icing facility?I don’t know that it’s always something that is rather large and grand and has machinery in it like Chicago airport or New York or places that have snow conditions similar to what we do. I believe what we’ve been talking about at the airport district on the board in the last two years has been a heated hangar and that heated hangar provides the warmth that avoids icing on an aircraft. So from a safety perspective, for an airplane that needs to get between two points, that would be something that I would consider supporting because it could be dual purpose … there are occasions here in the Sierra, even in August, when you would need to provide a heated hangar of that capacity for aircraft, because temperatures do drop… What we would have to do is look at the economics…Would you support the construction of a new terminal building, and why?I don’t think it’s necessary right now, and I didn’t feel it was necessary in the last four years. I support certainly the planning aspect of it because I believe out there is going to be a need for it and the need for it would be a place that would be comfortable for any member of the community to come into a terminal and possibly learn historically more about our airport district. One facet is education, the second facet is community support by providing additional meeting space for community members. And maybe even most importantly … I think it’s very important to have a library of reference, and we do have UNR [University of Nevada at Reno] nearby and its aviation reference books are rather limited and what better place to have a very detailed library on aviation than here … I think that it’s possible in the future. If I did support it, I would want to support it as being responsible for every single shovel of dirt that is lifted from the soil. And in being concerned about what we decide to develop here and displace wildlife because of it, it should be done responsibly, and a new terminal is a very responsible decision to be made and not to be made lightly. So I would not support a terminal that would be built just for the purposes of having a terminal that might not even have a 20-year life cycle. I would want to see something that would be built in the tradition of the mountains and it be built responsibly to last a long time.Do you thing that by improving facilities at the airport that the airport would attract more usage and increased aircraft traffic?No. Well, because the way the airport is built right now, we can more than double the traffic. That doesn’t need any change in order to increase it. The traffic that is here is here because of Lake Tahoe and the Town of Truckee. The traffic that is here is here because of tourism that started back in 1958 when they started planning for the Olympics at Squaw Valley. And what came as a side benefit to that, if you will, is construction. The construction industry and the tourism industry is truly what this airport serves. When we have visitors that come to this area, you want them to be comfortable. I go back to the aspect that we really don’t need a terminal today nor is it financially responsible to even consider building anything of that capacity that isn’t going to return money into the district – because we just lost over a million dollars in revenue already from the tax cuts. It wouldn’t be a smart thing to do to put anything out there that is not going to have a significant return to the district. I just don’t see that today… I don’t believe that a [de-icing facility] would bring traffic in. I think it would keep the traffic that is here safe … What are the major goals an airport district resident can count on you working for if you are re-elected to the board?My major goals consist of disaster assistance, issues with noise, fiscal responsibility, concerns with the growth of Truckee and North Lake Tahoe area, and the economy of the airport. And out of these five points, the disaster assistance I think is very important to establish a policy within the district, the community emergency preparedness and response policy, while continuing to support CARE flight, the joint-use fire station and firefighting aircraft; it’s very very essential in term of our disaster assistance. We have that in place now and it’s my goal to continue and strengthen that as a policy within our district. The noise is to re-establish a permanent noise committee – that’s the ANAC, that’s the Airport Noise Advisory Committee. That would be composed of local neighbors as well as airport users, as we have in the past to creatively continue to examine district policies and procedures safely and responsibly. And that’s the key: to safely and responsibly reduce noise. To just get out there and say, “Oh, I’m going to reduce noise,” and there’s no plan to reduce noise, is a concern to me. We really need to do it with safety in mind when we talk about aviation… I am the board member who moved to have approved by our board the fourth air center of activity on the runway so that we could get a more accurate count. I am not a scientist, I believe in science, I believe in scientific data. And I think it’s absolutely crucial to have scientific data that we can accumulate and we can reference back to the public who we answer to. I have never not answered to the public with regards to their concerns. So those activity counters are absolutely essential. Originally we looked to have one, then they said well maybe we’ll go for three. I pushed for four. We have four runway numbers on two runways right now. That way you get traffic that’s going both ways, and before we dealt with estimates, now we should over the next couple of years, hopefully, have some accurate data to reference. I feel it’s really important … to set that noise footprint and conduct a noise study. OK, the noise footprint has been determined pretty much by the CLUP right now, which is very important to have had updated and I admire the airport district because it’s a vote of three to get that approved to go ahead with the CLUP and when I first came on the board back four years ago I asked for both things: a noise study and the CLUP to be done, and it was turned down by a majority of the board. I appreciate that, not everybody feels the same way, diversity is good, but we have since as a group collectively come together to determine that this was absolutely essential and should have been done 11 years ago when the Town of Truckee was first planning its development.What have been your achievements as part of the airport district board?I would say getting the CLUP moving, while I know it’s certainly a highly contested process, it is in my view for the safety of everybody and anybody who is in the airport influence area. The safety of whether you’re going to plan as a town to build an area where a group of 300, 500, a thousand people can be at one time, right underneath the flight path. One, noise is an issue, but the bigger part of that, always, is safety. And that is my background and that is where I come from when I think about aviation. Safety in the aircraft, for the pilot, for the occupant and as a pilot, you’re always looking out for the safety of the ground, and the people that reside on the ground and have to deal with what your decisions are if you have a problem with that engine.I did not mention fiscal responsibility in one of my goals. I think it’s absolutely essential that we reclaim with California law, separating management responsibility into a general manager, a treasurer, a clerk of the board, an engineer and legal counsel. Right now today, our board did vote to combine the manager with clerk of the board with our accountancy, with our fiscal responsibility. That manager has three of the absolutely most prevalent roles that are determined by law for our district to account for. And I think it’s essential that we have a reporting action to the board from each of those as individuals. Not one person controlling the airport district, and in essence setting policy. It is the board that sets the policy, so another goal of mine is to come back into the original structure and organizational feasibility of this district – that has changed.How would the general manager set policy?If the GM is not just the general manager, but the clerk of the board who also reviews every sentence that is written in our minutes and approves the way they’re written that comes back to the board, and if they’re also involved as our auditor for the district, then he’s controlling all the money that reports back to the board as well. If you have one person responsible for three major functions in any corporation, that is very interesting disruption of information flow that can come back to the board that represents the public. And our board has seen fit as a majority vote to put all three of those responsibilities on the shoulders of one person who should only have one of those responsibilities. And their background is most strongly defined as the manager, not the clerk of the board, not as the auditor for the district. Only does that background reflect a manager. So that’s an in-house public record bit of information that I feel is in the best interest of the district and I will push very hard to have that restored in terms of what I view to be the spirit of the California law. Also, these individuals serve at the pleasure of the board, where they’ve taken three positions that usually serve at the pleasure of the board and given them to one person, when in fact if there’s a disruption of any one of those things, how are you going to let go of that person when they are doing three functions and you need to have someone to do something different and you need the other two and it’s an organizational nightmare for a corporation … I think it’s important that we tighten our purchasing control in competitive bidding practices. We have had some difficulty with that and it’s very important that we establish perhaps an even tighter policy within the district about bidding practices … we have to accept the lowest bid. And if you were aware at one of our last meetings, Granite Construction had threatened litigation because we had not honor the lowest bid. And at that time, we found that our legal counsel had ill-advised us.I certainly do support responsible, controlled growth at the airport for aviation purposes to meet community needs, and you can quote this right here if you want to because it is truly how I feel, and I’ve given it a lot of thought to this phrase, and when we talk about the community needs while preserving the scenic status of 267. I’m very possessive of 267, I drive it, I like it, I really enjoy coming down off of Northstar or starting up towards Northstar and seeing that incredibly beautiful meadow area, it is just too beautiful. And I think it would be a travesty to see that gone, and I know of all the development that’s going to be going on, hopefully they’re responsible part of that development will be an effort to preserve that corridor because it’s near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts. Coordination of all planning issues, and this is essential in my campaign as well, that we need to coordinate all of our planning issues with our sister agencies through a cooperative community plan, and I don’t just mean the Town of Truckee or the sanitation district, or the airport district, or the school district. The school district is certainly separate in its way, but collective because we’re collaborating all together, we all benefit from each one of these public agencies … one of the travesties of the last four years is I have brought before the board requests to include professional marketing assistance for our airport district and it has been declined by a majority of the board, and it saddens me that there is not the foresight currently to go forward with what we need to have and that is the ability to tell people what we have done. We have done a lot. And I would say, in concert with our board of directors in serving with them, that 90 percent, more than 90 percent of our votes, have been unanimous, and 10 percent is not bad. Let’s hope that there’s some disagreement. My concern about slate voting is that you receive rubber stamping, and when you have rubber stamping, that 90 percent goes up to closer to 100. And I don’t think that’s healthy in terms of discussion about the district and the public. If you’re going to truly have creative critical thinking going on, you’re going to have some areas of disagreement. Ten percent is not bad. I don’t always agree with the board, and they certainly don’t always agree with me. But I say that 90 percent of the time is pretty good, OK?Economy of the airport. We’re looking at, I think, an economic development committee that must be formed. This is new and different, and I totally advocate it. It’s something that as a board we have avoided … the airport economic committee would be a committee to examine issues related to economy which is driven by tourism and construction…Do you believe the Truckee Tahoe Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan should undergo an Environmental Impact Report or include mitigation in its environmental report?My sense is that we hired a professional, Mead and Hunt, and I certainly do relinquish any decision making in that regard to the professional in that field. And if they feel that it’s essential, because you go through the commission. OK, you advise the commission that you want to do a CLUP and then they hire an independent contractor to do that so that neither of the two individual parties has undue influence on that independent contractor. If they feel that those steps are necessary then I would have to bow to that area of expertise. I would want discussion over it, I certainly appreciate the fact that these are public hearings because it does involve everyone and I’m trusting in the professionalism of both of those groups, the commission and Mead and Hunt to do the best for our community with regards to safety and the environment. That’s their job. And if I were to dispute that, I would ask for another professional opinion, that’s where I would go. EIRs are very important, don’t get me wrong, I am an environmentalist from the soul. Environmental impact studies, however, with regards to what this report recommends has nothing to do with construction that’s to happen, if anything, is to limit it. So that’s where I would see, if anything, that I wouldn’t disagree with what limited knowledge I have about environmental impacts, that this would be a negative declaration. Primarily, because it has to do with air space, OK? … It’s not encouraging land use, it’s discouraging land use. Do you support noise monitoring outside of the airport property?Absolutely. It’s the only way to do it. And again, I’m not that professional, but to me noise is noise… Actually if you think about it, the airport study, if we could do this noise study, and I do truly hope that we can … Airports, and what we deal with on our runways, what comes off of the runways, what comes on to the runways, is one area. Let’s say the airport totally goes away. That doesn’t take airplanes away. Reno is nearby, Carson City is nearby, Stead is nearby, Auburn is nearby. People come up here all the time just to fly over the Sierras … Aviation is going to continue whether this airport is here or not. With that in mind, I think it is very important to get a sense of whatever we can tie together with that noise study, where the sensors would be off the airport property … Members of Friends of the Truckee Tahoe Airport and airport board candidates have suggested that if the Community Airport Restoration Effort slate is elected that the airport will close and somehow be developed residentially or commercially. Do you believe CARE intends to close the airport?I believe CARE stands for Close the Airport Right Effort. I’m going to make that statement. You have some very qualified individuals running on that slate, and they have one focus and that is noise. What makes noise? Airplanes. They may say to the public that they’re not going to close the airport, and they well may mean that they’re not going to close the airport. But if you’re going to eliminate noise, you’re going to eliminate airplanes. If you eliminate airplanes, what happens with the airport? It’s just a logical sequence for me. Kathleen Eagan has been asked in the past at public forums if she gets – if and when – elected, if and when she got rid of the jets because she definitely endorsed, as have her running mates, sending all jets to Reno. I don’t know how they’re going to do that, but that’s the proposal. That’s over $1 million in airport district revenues that goes to Reno, and that’s in fuel cost and hangar rental alone… And while that slate promotes sending all jet traffic to Reno, while they don’t know how, yet, she was asked in this meeting, “Is that enough?” And she could not and did not choose to answer that. I’m left with no other course of information other than to believe that while they can state – truthfully – they do not intend to close the airport, they are stating also, truthfully, that they intend to do away with the airplanes. And while they start with jets, and more than $1 million of our district revenues on an annual basis goes right with them, to say nothing about the side issues of the income from those people that are on those aircraft … the side effects take it well beyond the million dollars to this district. So my concern about closing the airport is a good question and yes, anyone of them can stand up and say “We will not close the airport,” but what are they going to do when they no longer have airplanes at the airport? The only meeting, the only information that has come from any one of those candidates, has been negative about the airport. It has to do with noise. What are you going to do about the noise? What are you going to do about raising fuel costs? What are you going to do about raising the cost to all of the aircraft that comes into this airport, so that nobody comes here that doesn’t really want to be here that isn’t willing to pay for it? Their intent is to raise costs as they have suggested at our board meetings. Each and every one of them. Other than Paul Vatistas, who has never been to a board meeting until he put his name out on the campaign … and then when you look at Mary Hetherington, a well-qualified person, a wonderful engineer, but she’s suggesting that Southwest Airlines can land on our runway right now, and she’s a civil engineer? I’m not a civil engineer and I know that runway is not stressed for Southwest Airlines. There’s no way on God’s good earth that they could land that here. Oh, they could land it here, technically, yes they could, but there would probably not be another landing on that runway for another six months until they repaired it … If you don’t want to close the airport, but you want to do away with aviation as a whole, you don’t embrace aviation, instead you detest it because of its noise, and you don’t want to accept the monetary value to this incredible beautiful area here, which was built on tourism, and now pivots around construction, you tell me. I find it real hard. When I say Close the Airport Right Effort, I mean they started this campaign four years ago. That’s the first we ever heard of closing the airport, and that was the platform of three individuals that ran four years ago, and they embraced sending all airplanes to Reno. Nothing to do with the economy. They couldn’t even address the economic issues here. Now, we have a Close the Airport Right Effort by people who are very well-qualified and able to do everything that was proposed four years ago. The faces have changed, the credentials have changed, but the message has not. They’ve attended every meeting with complaints about noise, complaints about inaction, complaints. If you were running this business and you had people out here that came in every single day and told you everything you are doing wrong about one subject only – noise – and they want to sit on your board of directors and now tell you how to manage your more than $26 million in assets, $6 million of which is cash, would that be a reasonable executive decision to bring that person on your board of directors? That’s the decision that’s made by the public and I do trust they will make the right decision … You do realize that five households represent 45 percent of the noise complaints. I am not saying it is not a reality. It is a reality and when you have jet flying over your home that is Stage I or Stage II, that’s an issue. The place for people to go that are on that slate was to have participated in the ANAC committee, which is coming back if I have anything to do with it. Right now our board meets on a regularly scheduled board meeting to deal with noise so that the board can take action, as opposed to the way that it was in the past. And if these people want to participate in that they can be there, and they do come now -for one subject… the airport is more than one subject… Are jets appropriate for this small town airport in regards to the positive economic impacts and the negative noise impacts that they bring?We’re just talking about today, and today right now I’m sure that there are many people who feel that the jets’ economic impact does not outweigh the noise impact. But I will promise you that in the years to come, even those people will not even notice that aircraft going over head other than by vision because the new jets that are out there, some of which are called “whisper jets,” and they mean whisper, they make less noise than the Bonanza, a single-engine Bonanza, light aircraft piston.Do you think eliminating the stage one and stage two aircraft in the process is adequate to address the noise concerns of jet traffic?I think that it will take a significant chunk out of the complaint factor. I think that most people, and I truly do feel we have two issues here with the jet traffic: One is the fact that a jet flies over someone’s residence, and the second is that you have a resident who either claims to be ignorant of or was never advised by their Realtor that they are on the flight path. And those people, two of the three of the CARE group live in the flight path had knowledge that they were moving into a home on the flight path of this airport and thought that it would never get this bad. When in fact they had knowledge because one was the first mayor of Truckee who was involved in the planning and chose not to consider the airport as part of the Town of Truckee’s planning at the time. So much so that she even chose to build a house right on that departure path. Now, the two issues, one being the jets that are flying over. Yes, Stage I, Stage II will make a tremendous difference if we lobby that, and I do believe we can be successful. I don’t know if it makes sense for someone in our district to go back to Washington on a regular basis to lobby, but you pay lobbyists to do that, that’s their field … If we can get a decision that those aircraft are no longer permitted in that airspace we can do well by that. I think you’ll see these complaints go down significantly. The other issue, and this is a sensitive one, it’s not a popular one, but if you have chosen to build or to buy property or to live under a flight path, whether it’s approach or departure, you need to be not only aware of that, you need to make the party that’s going to buy your property when you sell it aware of it … Would you support revising the Airport Master Plan before the trigger set up by the board of annual aircraft operations exceeding 61,600 or operations being over 15 percent jet traffic?I wouldn’t not support it. And by saying that I am saying I would need to see the information before me to justify bringing it any earlier. I think that it is very important to have continued discussions, and that is all part of working with out other government agencies that are in the same area. And I think that Town of Truckee is an essential part of that communication…I wouldn’t not support it. And by saying that I am saying I would need to see the information before me to justify bringing it any earlier. I think that it is very important to have continued discussions, and that is all part of working with out other government agencies that are in the same area. And I think that Town of Truckee is an essential part of that communication…


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