In a four to three roll call vote at last Tuesday’s meeting, the Colville City Council opted to put an advisory ballot item in the November General Election concerning the relocated airport project. The measure will ask Colville citizens whether or not they think the City of Colville should proceed with a site selection process for a regional airport. There are certain stipulations though:
The vote will only be advisory, meaning the decision to continue with the airport site selection process ultimately rests on the shoulders of Colville City Council.
Since the proposed airport’s tax base would reside within the City of Colville, and the city would be responsible for any maintenance and repair, only residents within the city limits will be allowed to vote on the measure.
The cost for running the advisory vote could take $3,000 to $4,000 out of the city’s current expense reserves fund.
A controversial move
The measure must be filed with the Stevens County Elections Department by Tuesday, August 16.
The motion for the advisory vote, which was moved by council member Doug Kyle, was one of controversy among city council and members of the public attending the meeting.
Council members Pearl Mance and Terry Foster agreed that allowing the airport project to go on the November ballot would send a mixed message to the Federal Aeronautics Administration regarding the city’s commitment to the development of an airport.
‘…It will just muddy the water.’
“If we were going to do this (an advisory vote), we should have done it a long time ago,” said Foster. “If we do it now it will just muddy the water.”
“We already got our hand slapped by FAA when we removed the Aladdin site from the selection process,” said Mance, referring to a motion passed last year by city council to remove any site within a mile of the current municipal airport from the selection process.
“We were told we had to consider all sites for their potential. If we put this to a vote, what does that tell them (FAA)? We look like a bunch of wishy-washy fools who can’t make up their minds.”
Council member Dorothy Bergin said she couldn’t vote in favor of an advisory vote unless all registered voters residing in Stevens County were allowed to vote on the issue.
“It’s called a regional airport; if it’s not a city airport… it should not be a city vote,” said Bergin.
Nancy Foll countered that since the City of Colville is not partnering with any other regional entity to fund the airport, the vote should only be extended to citizens of Colville.
“Before serious amounts of the city’s money is spent on this, it’s time to make a decision,” said Foll. “This (advisory vote) will be a good way to help guide the council in making that decision.”
Colville Airport Board member Jerry Slater protested the motion, saying that the majority of the public knows very little about the actual facts of the relocated airport project and was more likely to make their votes based on emotion instead of solid reasoning.
“The negative hype connected to this project is outstanding next to the actual positive information concerning a relocated airport,” Slater said.
Mayor Dick Nichols appeared displeased with the motion, alleging that the council was willing to quibble over money to repave city streets, but was willing to spend $3,000 to $4,000 of city funds in economically stressed times on an advisory vote.