The airport relocation project loomed over the goings-on at Colville City Council last week and Monday evening as council members debated whether or not to authorize an advisory vote for the Nov. 8 general election. The advisory vote revolves around whether or not the City of Colville should proceed with the process to relocate and expand the municipal airport.
At the July 12 meeting, council had voted four to three to give Colville residents their say on whether or not the city should proceed with plans for a relocated airport. But at the August 9 meeting, with the filing deadline for the Stevens County Auditor’s Office drawing nearer (Aug.16), several council members balked at possibly spending $3,000 to $4,000 on a resolution that would serve as a recommendation only.
“I don’t think this is good judgment,” said council member Pearl Mance at last Tuesday’s meeting, citing the funding that had been pulled from Federal Aviation Administration. “We don’t know if the FAA will be back in action like it was before the cuts from Congress. If we spend time on this vote instead of acting now on securing funding, it may be too late.”
Last Tuesday’s meeting ended with that four to three vote in favor of overturning the motion to place the airport relocation on the advisory ballot. The motion caused concern among council members. Was this a legal maneuver after a motion in favor of the advisory vote had already been passed?
An emergency meeting was called by council and Mayor Dick Nichols for last Thursday at 7 p.m. so that city attorney Charles Schuerman could review the legalities of overturning a motion that has already been passed.
According to Schuerman, who referenced Robert’s Rule of Order, a motion may be discussed and deliberated as “in-house” business among city council until it is submitted to a third party.
“For example, if you had already filed the resolution at the Stevens County Courthouse Elections Department, then a third party would be involved and it would no longer be considered just a city council matter,” explained Schuerman.
Since it was an emergency meeting, where only the purpose for calling said meeting may be discussed, Mayor Nichols scheduled another emergency meeting for Monday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. to discuss and take possible action on whether or not the advisory vote would indeed go on the ballot.
Monday’s meeting lasted all of 30 minutes, with council member Lou Janke participating via telephone since his work schedule required him to be out of town and he could not attend the meeting in person.
Council members once again made their argument for and against the resolution. Mance pointed out that an advisory vote is not binding for the city council and that such a resolution is not included in the FAA’s “master plans.”
‘It’s like closing the barn door after the horse is out…’
“If people want to comment on whether or not they think the airport is a good idea, we have two meetings a month at 7 p.m. at City Hall where there is a public comment period for people to bring their concerns and comments to the city council,” said Mance. “But most people don’t spend the time or expend the effort to do so. And we’re going to pay to give them a ballot that they can fill out while sitting around in their PJ's?
“If they want this vote so bad, why don’t they collect donations to fund it like some of our area businesses did to contribute to the airport’s site selection process? I feel there is no reason for this advisory vote other than some council members want to get a fuzzy, do-good feeling from it.”
Council member Doug Kyle countered that while he felt Mance’s strong opinion is good, the issue of the airport is a divisive one and it is not about whether or not the idea of a relocated airport is good or bad.
“It’s about how many people in Colville want to support that process,” Kyle questioned. “That’s what this resolution would be about. There’s a line from one of my favorite Bob Seger songs that says no one gets to walk between the rain. Well, it’s getting close to raining time.”
Janke agreed with earlier commentary by FAA officials who said public support is crucial to the project, along with support from an outside source, such as Stevens County. Janke said an advisory vote on the ballot would, “honor the voice of the people.”
“It’s like closing the barn door after the horse is out,” argued council member Terry Foster, who voted against the resolution. “It would have been a wise decision two years ago, when this project was just beginning to start up again; now I think it’s a foolish one.”
After several more minutes of commentary, Colville City Clerk Holly Pannell conducted a roll call vote on the resolution. Council voted as follows: