By Lowell Brown
January 20, 2011
Denton Airport tenants and city residents added their voices to the debate over the future of the airport’s citizen advisory board Wednesday night.
During a special meeting of the Denton Airport Advisory Board, several tenants and residents said they worried that a city-backed plan to dissolve the board and break up its duties would deprive the airport of board members’ aviation knowledge.
At the same time, most speakers at the meeting voiced general support for boosting the airport’s marketing and economic development efforts – a key element of the city’s plan.
The board called the meeting to offer the public a chance to weigh in on the city’s airport governance plan ahead of an expected City Council vote Feb. 1. Board members, who are council appointees, also agreed to form a three-member subcommittee to help draft a final position paper to offer to the council.
Under a plan endorsed by the city manager’s office, the board’s duties would be shifted to the city’s Economic Development Partnership board and a newly created airport committee made up of three council members. The city also would begin holding a regular meeting with airport stakeholders.
The seven-member economic development board would add two members, including one with general aviation knowledge, to handle the added duties of airport branding, marketing and development incentives. The economic development board already includes representatives of the City Council, Denton Chamber of Commerce, the University of North Texas and major taxpayers. Other duties now held by the airport board would go to the new council airport committee.
City Finance Director Bryan Langley outlined the proposal Wednesday, saying it was designed to unite and expand marketing efforts and attract new businesses to achieve the city’s longtime goal of making the airport self-sufficient. Langley also briefly explained three other governance options he had provided the council but had not recommended, including making no changes to the board.
Mark Taylor of U.S. Aviation Group called Langley’s presentation an “illusion of choices,” since only the recommended option was discussed in detail.
“That in and of itself can lead people to believe that’s really not four choices; that’s one,” Taylor said. “And I think that is probably a problem. I also see a disrespect for the work and enthusiasm that people like [airport board chairman] Don Smith bring to this table.”
Mike Sutphin, owner and president of Avionics International Supply, stressed the importance of economic incentives to attract and keep businesses at the airport. But he also raised concerns that the city’s plan would mean the loss of the airport board’s technical expertise.
Langley disagreed, saying the city’s plan was meant to create a management structure that could quickly respond to tenants’ issues.
“We want to be your strategic partner in making your business successful,” Langley said. “It’s not an attempt to get rid of the experience in the airport advisory board. What we’re hoping to do is get more feedback from all the tenants at the airport” through the proposed stakeholder meetings.
Three of the airport board’s five current members are pilots. Two board positions are vacant because of resignations.