by Peter Riviere
Hopes for regionalizing the Mount Washington Regional Airport were bolstered Saturday as Bethlehem voters approved an intermunicipal agreement with seven other towns to take over operation of the airport.
The regionalization plan appeared dashed this week when the largest community, Littleton, balked at agreeing to join or fund a share of marketing and promoting the airport located in Whitefield.
Established as a threshold for regionalization by the present, interim airport commission was a population base of 10,000 residents.
With Littleton out of the picture, the plan hinged on Bethlehem voters, who approved the two-part issue at their town business meeting Saturday.
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The second part of the airport question was seeking financial support in the amount of 50 & cent; per capita for those towns joining in the operational effort.
Unexpectedly two towns solicited for support and membership & shy; Sugar Hill and Woodstock & shy; agreed to fund the per capita amount but not to approve membership in the intermunicipal agreement that will run the airport.
"We never anticipated that eventuality," said Richard Polonsky, a consultant who helped shepherd the regionalization with volunteer airport commissioners.
The group's executive committee meets this week to chart its short-term strategy.
On the agenda are: marketing and promoting the airport with pilots as far distant as Delaware, Maryland and Virginia; marketing an aircraft repair and maintenance business at the airport with an eye to attracting a young owner interested in working as airport manager; consideration of interim manager plans to handle day-to- day operations and nominations from the member towns to the Mount Washington Regional Airport authority.
Said a Lancaster selectman at that town meeting, "Many efforts have been made to get this airport off the ground with this one showing the most signs of success."
In the last year the interim group has addressed safety shortfalls at the field, done maintenance on the 3,450-foot runway, installed a 24-hour fuel farm that accepts all major credit cards, seen the revival of the Civil Air Patrol wing and completed a business plan which includes greater marketing and better services at the facility.