New board to reshape Truckee airport vision | SierraSun.com

New board to reshape Truckee airport vision

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

When three reform-minded candidates were elected to the Truckee Tahoe Airport board in November of last year, everyone knew that change was not far behind.

And four months after the election the new members are beginning to reshape the five-member board’s most fundamental policy ” the airport’s vision statement. After revising the vision statement, the board plans to create the airport’s first specific business plan, said airport manager Dave Gotschall.

The first step in a revamped vision for the airport will be a broad, unbiased polling of the community to gather the public’s ideas on the future of the airport, the board decided at its Thursday meeting. The survey, changes to the airport’s overarching policy statement and a new business plan for the airport will take between a year and a year and a half to complete, airport officials said.

The emphasis on the airport’s direction comes after jet noise and the airport’s growth became heated campaign topics in the eight-candidate race for three airport board seats in November.

The three successful candidates, Kathleen Eagan, Mary Hetherington and Paul Vatistas, replaced three board incumbents by running on a platform of reducing noise and changing how the airport relates to surrounding residents.

By taking critical look at the airport’s visions statement, which guides the airport’s overall operation, the board is fulfilling campaign promises and hoping to avoid a public outcry on the airport’s direction like the one that reached a crescendo just before the airport elections last year.

“This airport is going to grow. Truckee is going to grow,” said Vatistas, one of the new board members. “If you can’t see a collision coming you are missing something.”

To avoid that collision the airport, Vatistas said, will have to go beyond just changing the vision statement, although that is the right place to start, he added.

“This is just the small, first step to getting this going,” Vatistas said.

The survey idea came from a board sub-committee, made up of board members Kathleen Eagan and Steve Swigard, that the board formed to hurry along revisions to the airport’s direction.

“What’s really important is to gather information on what the people want their airport to be,” Kathleen Eagan said.

The responses from the community will be a “reliable guide” that the board will use in making decisions on the airport’s future, she said.

Airport district residents, who have often been split over if and how the airport should grow, urged the board to use an independent consultant to do the survey to avoid any bias in formulating the questions used in the questionnaire.

That process could be time-consuming and expensive to get comprehensive results that fairly represent the community’s desires for the airport, board members warned. But the majority of the board felt comfortable with expending the time and money to get answers that they feel are vital to the airport’s future.

“If we nickel and dime it we will fail,” said Vatistas.

Board president Michael Golden agreed.

“That’s what we’re talking about here is doing it right,” Golden said.

The survey should poll a broad section of the district’s residents, as well as other “stakeholders” like emergency services and fire fighting agencies, said Golden.

Some district residents had their qualms about changing the airport’s vision statement. But the board, the majority of which had been elected on a reform agenda, agreed to finance the survey, a move that other residents felt was completely appropriate.

“The community voted resoundingly that the current airport vision statement needs to be changed,” said Truckee resident Alison Shelling, referring to the November elections.