With the unanimous approval by Longmont City Council of the new FBO (Fixed Based Operator) at Vance Brand Airport, the future of the airport becomes that much more secure, probably to the chagrin of those that have endlessly tried to undermine the airport for the last 20 years.
Over ten years ago while flying over Longmont and following the FAA’s rules and Longmont’s own noise abatement procedure, I was threatened with bodily harm by someone who was equipped and encouraged by some in city staff to essentially carry out a reign of terror against the airport and its users. This staff included former City Manager Gordon Pedrow and former Community Development Director Phil Delvecchio. The city is better off with them off of the payroll.
At the time, the rumors of paving over the airport for a business park or other pocket-lining endeavors were rampant. When I started doing some digging, I was suddenly inundated with new friends that wanted to spill a lot of beans, including how some in the city tried to move the airport for the benefit of some developer friend and that former councilmember Tom McCoy and others had their fingerprints all over it.
When that failed, some tried to kill the airport through a thousand little cuts. This activity was threatening to people who make their livelihood at the airport and they were in fear of some on city staff who were out of control.
If Mr. Pedrow and Mr. Delvecchio were going to use city funds and taxpayer dollars to help a non-Longmont resident carry out their dirty work, I was going to share it with those who paid taxes and voted. I was also going to put the pressure on those who hire and fire them – the city council. That’s called accountability.
The goal was to keep these underhanded types of activities away from the airport, and making irrelevant the irrational noise complaints to the point that city council didn’t even consider them as serious and were discarded out of hand. Then it was on to solidifying the airport’s future and its place in the city as a viable entity. The south side hangars were a big step in that direction, as was the return of the airport expo and open house, and educating those in city staff about actual rules and federal code involved with aviation and grant compliance.
It took the election of 2009, including former mayor Bryan Baum who promoted the airport every chance he could, to put the airports future on firmer ground. I was pleased to see Katie Witt take an active role in the airport and become the Airport Advisory Board’s (AAB) council liaison, since the airport was in her ward. Her predecessor on that board, Tom McCoy’s son Sean McCoy, rarely showed up to board meetings and eventually sided with anti-airport forces. I also applied and was appointed to the AAB, eventually becoming Chairman by the time we passed the sweeping new Master Plan, which included the controversial runway extension, and further solidified the airport’s future.
Aviation and airports have a boom/bust cycle and there’s no telling what’s going to happen. The runway may never be extended. FBO’s come and go, including ones that citys put much of their hopes into. I’ve seen too many airport-related businesses fail and once busy airports become graveyards to get too excited about the recent news. Of course I hope this one succeeds because with it the airport succeeds – and the city succeeds. That’s really the bottom line.
Even with the airports figurative hands untied, there’s no guarantee of success. We may have a council that voted unanimously for both the Master Plan and the lease for the new FBO. We may be free from the foxes guarding the hen house in the persons of Pedrow, Delvecchio, McCoy, and others who conspired against the airport for the last 20 years by varying degrees. We may have made irrelevant those who would wish harm to the airport, its users, and by extension the City of Longmont itself. We may have a more airport friendly City Manager and council, but continued vigilance is still required.