July 16, 2020

Houlton votes to delay airport purchase

HOULTON — The Houlton Town Council decided Monday night not to proceed with the purchase of any property that might be needed if the town’s airport is eventually expanded.

The town does not expect to begin the runway expansion project for about five years. When that expansion does take place, it could have an effect on the status of property that falls within what is known as a Runway Protection Zone.

The RPZ is designed to enhance the protection of people and property in the approach and takeoff area at the ends of the runway. When the runway is extended, the RPZ will also have to be lengthened. That will include residential properties at the end of Hovey Road near the intersection with White Settlement Road.

Even though the town does not expect any expansion to begin for five years, the property issue was brought to the forefront by a fire in January that destroyed the home of David Small on Hovey Road. Small’s home could fall in the RPZ if the runway was extended by 500 feet, as has been discussed.

Small has been anxious to rebuild on the site, but until the expansion issue was decided, he could not get a building permit.

The town was prepared to purchase Small’s property for $30,000. However, Town Manager Allan K. Bean recommended that no property be purchased until more definite plans are available for the project.

He said that an airport survey could determine that the runaway will only have to be extended by 450 feet to meet the needs of corporate aircraft. In that case, Small’s property would not be in conflict with the RPZ. Small will now be able to get his building permit.

Expansion of the airport’s 5000-foot runway to accommodate larger corporate jets is seen as a major factor in the region’s future economic growth. The facility has already been designated as an economic development airport by the state.

Noting that there are almost 5,400 corporate jets owned by U.S. companies, Community Development Director Charles Upton said that expansion of the airport will allow the airport to become “a player in the international game.”

Also at the meeting, the Council voted to award a contract for temporary municipal recycling services to The White Knight of Smyrna, for the low bid of $3,747. The service will run from March 1 to Oct. 17, when the town’s landfill will close. The only other bid received was from Andino Inc. of Houlton for $22,569.

The recycling operation will essentially take over where the now defunct Southern Aroostook Solid Waste Disposal District program left off. People living in towns that use the Houlton landfill will still be able to drop off recyclable goods at a collection site at the landfill.

The town meanwhile is progressing with its plans to privatize all solid waste management services after Oct. 17. The Council will hold a workshop next Monday night to review those plans.

Bean, who has advocated the privatization move for several months, said that the difference in the bids for private recycling service demonstrated his point that if companies are allowed to find their own solutions to the town’s requirements, they will do so in a manner that is most cost effective for both the community and the company .

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