Once again, Montpelier has looked out of state for answers to a very local problem.
Our state government has seen fit to hire an out-of-state firm to study Vermont's 10 state-funded airports, and possibly suggest doing away with one or another or several of them.
Obviously our own airport, the Caledonia County State Airport on Pudding Hill in Lyndon Center, is one of the 10 being studied, and one of the 10 that could literally fly off into the sunset.
We find it quite unsettling that no one from the Northeast Kingdom is on the committee that will be making recommendations to the Legislature. This panel will form its proposals based on survey data and input, at hearings scheduled throughout the state this month and next.
We must admit that although we're outraged that no one from our region will be assessing the airport status, we're not at all surprised. In fact, we're quite used to it. Montpelier has a history of giving short shrift to issues of vital importance to the Northeast Kingdom. From state officialdom's perspective, the Kingdom is out there somewhere, and not a terribly significant entity.
We choose to think otherwise.
Our airport is of vital significance to the people in the three northern-most counties of the state. It figures directly into the area's economic growth and stability.
The study committee is looking for duplicity and overlapping services, as they search to determine which airports could be eliminated. We commend Sen. Robert Ide, who noted the importance of the Caledonia Airport and said he recognizes that it better serves the area than the other two state-owned airports in the Kingdom. Rep. Cola Hudson, who happens to live near the airport on Pudding Hill, is distressed that no one from the Northeast Kingdom will be among the decision-makers on the study committee.
Hudson has noted that railroad and highways have dominated the Legislature's attention in recent years.
We say fine to that. There's a place for highways and railroads. Often where highways converge, however (such as at Interstates 91 and 89 in the White River Junction area), we find an airport nearby-like the one in West Lebanon.
Combined, the transportation sites contribute to a thriving and viable economy in the Upper Connecticut Valley
Well, we have a couple of significant, converging highways too. We have intestates 91 and 93 and we garner a lot of interest in railroads here in northern Vermont. Why not complete the transportation picture, as the Connecticut Valley has, by recognizing the significance of an airport nearby? It only makes sense.
There are two meetings in our area to discuss the future of our airport. The users hearing for fixed-base operators and airport tenants is tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10:30 a.m. at the Pudding Hill Airport, and the public hearing for the Northeast Kingdom is scheduled to take place on Oct.14, at 6:30 p.m., at the Lincoln Inn in St. Johnsbury. We urge all readers, whether they fly or not, to realize the economic impact of the airport and attend these sessions.
We know people who have used the airport for their pleasure and companies that have used it to benefit their production. We know tourists who have visited the area and left considerable money in the area. Businesses have obviously found the airport expedient, and a number of area residents have been able to get medical needs and personal commitments fulfilled because the facility is there.
The future of Burke Mountain, the continuation of successful area businesses, and the constant draw of outsiders to our area cannot happen without the continuation of the area's well-kept and strategically located airport.
We ask residents to think carefully about our local airport, and how it does and can continue to serve the region. We also urge you to attend the public hearings on Sept.30 and Oct.14, and let the state know that this area needs the airport.
Clearly, the community can only soar with a strong commitment from Montpelier that our airport will be treated with the respect it rightly deserves.