Tuesday December 4, 2012

WILMINGTON -- Jim Barnes has a lot to consider when it comes to the airport that may or may not come to fruition in the Deerfield Valley.

On Wednesday, the Selectboard in Wilmington discussed Barnes’ request for a deed to land near Haystack. He was looking for multiple parcels of land projects, as well as possible funding from the town.

"Generally, it (the land) coordinated with the proposed expansion of the Deerfield Valley Airport," Town Manager Scott Murphy told the Reformer.

Barnes has been working with selectboards in Dover and Wilmington to gain financial support for his plans. His ideas that were presented were meant to gain momentum and support for an airport that could stimulate economic development. The expansion would allow private jets to operate in and out of the airport.

The airport project is still in the process of being decided whether or not it is worth being actualized. An ad hoc committee in Dover has been looking at a variety of data to determine what an airport would mean for the town as well as the valley.

Barnes has to acquire more land by the airport in order to expand, so he asked the Selectboard to consider donating land and money to this project.

He has put in for an Act 250, but will also have to go through a Federal Aviation Administration process.

"He’s got lots of hurdles to jump over," Murphy said.

On Wednesday, Murphy told the Selectboard "we should be specific," when addressing Barnes’ requests, instead of being vague and general.

Barnes also had asked for money from the CDBG funds for the airport expansion. These funds are usually for economic development or improved housing.

This year, however, the CDBG funds are being funneled into CDBG-DR funding, which means the money is going to help with disaster recovery.

With the effects of Irene still being addressed, the annual CDBG funds are unavailable for Barnes. Murphy said this year is out of the question, but next year there may be funds available for the project.

"We just don’t know what else is on the horizon."

At the Selectboard meeting prior to this, Barnes asked the Selectboard to consider giving him money from the 1 percent tax option fund for the airport project. During that time, there was no money for aiding the expansion.

The Selectboard will consider the project when discussing the budget for the 1-percent fund, but Murphy said it likely will ask voters and taxpayers what line of action to take for development in town.

The parcels Barnes wanted cannot be donated by the town.

"He’s asking for a donation, which we can’t do," Murphy said about the request for land to be donated to Barnes at the meeting. "We must sell it at a reasonable price."

It is against state statute to donate the land.

"If someone gave us an offer, we can sell it at a reasonable amount to offset taxpayer loss," Murphy told the Reformer.

The Selectboard talked about the process in which the property could be bought by Barnes. Members said they’d be willing to consider a sale. A contract would have to be written up to be considered.

Town Clerk Susie Haughwout mentioned that the town should be committed to economic development. But, there were no funds for the Selectboard to take money from just yet.

"We have no money and no mechanism," she added.

Haughwout also talked about the future of economic development. She said the Selectboard should be looking into other projects as well and not just on the basis of when someone comes to the Selectboard with a request.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com.