Election 2016: Airport board hopefuls focus on noise, property taxes
September 20, 2016
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Three of the candidates for the Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board of Directors, which has three open seats, took questions submitted by the community during a public forum held at Truckee Town Hall on Sept. 15.
The candidates who participated were Rick Stephens, Andrew Terry and Lisa Wallace, the lone incumbent (current directors Mary Hetherington and Tom Van Berkem hold the other two seats).
The fourth candidate, Teresa O'Dette, said in a statement read by the moderator she was unable to attend due to a family emergency.
"Every year, the airport district collects over $5 million from our property taxes," said Stephens. "And I believe the airport has the capability and the obligation to reduce noise and annoyance while operating the airport safely and efficiently."
Wallace and Terry, who each said they're running on the same ticket, also said they plan to work toward more noise mitigation.
"One of the things I'm supporting is the experiment of the seasonal tower next summer," Wallace said. "Additionally I'm a strong supporter of what we call the tranquility campaign, reaching out to the pilots about their impacts on neighbors."
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Wallace, who is the current board president, is seeking re-election. Terry, her running mate, has served three terms on the Airport Community Advisory Team.
Terry said the public taxes dedicated to the airport district should support the aviation activities the airport provides, and said that noise mitigation is an important part of that.
"… It behooves the airport to attempt to manage that noise and annoyance," he said. "A huge expenditure goes out to try and mitigate some of the negative aspects of aviation in the region."
He added that he believes the airport does a good job of managing public funds.
Wallace said she thinks the airport needs an adequate reserve budget.
"We manage an enormous public facility — a lot of buildings, a lot of pavement, a lot of infrastructure — we need a tenure reserve to support that," she said.
She also said that she is committed to using public funds to manage the airport's responsibility to mitigate noise and annoyance.
"The airport just had, this last few months, six meetings in various parts of the community on noise and annoyance — I attended five of the six," said Stephens. "And that's a real eye-opener about the effect of this airport on their immediate neighbors."
He said he supports the temporary, seasonal tower because he's interested in seeing if it can help direct pilots to fly in a way that generates less noise.
"Sometimes, the issue is less the absolute noise from the aircraft, more the event itself," said Terry.
He said that the airport has worked with frequent pilots to redirect flights to paths that fly over fewer homes.
The candidates each hammered in the point the airport is not going to be used for commercial, scheduled flights. However, they also each struggled to explain that Surf Air, subscription-based flight service, falls somewhere between private and commercial.
Stephens said that Surf Air is on the edge because it is a club.
"A large portion of the flights in and out of the airport are commercial," said Terry.
He said Net Jets and Surf Air are two examples, and that the airport needs to service both private and commercial, but he drew a distinction between those services and regularly scheduled flights.
"We need to service both private and commercial," he said. "We will not service regularly scheduled commercial — that requires much more infrastructure than this airport would be prepared to provide."
Wallace said that she doesn't support recruiting bigger commercial airlines to Truckee Tahoe Airport.
"Although the barrier to having them come here could be overcome, we don't even want to go down that road," she said.
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