Airport issues

Cancellation of airplane, auto show and hang gliders discussed

When deciding on which seven members to appoint to the Airport Commission, Mayor Diane Joens continued to stress the importance of having people who are community minded to serve.

She noted that there are community issues at the airport that need to be addressed. In particular, she discussed the cancellation of the annual Airplane, Auto and Cycle Show and the issue of hang gliders landing at the municipal facility.

She asked how John Altizer, Cottonwood Airport Users Association President Aleck Gradijan, Jr. or any of the applicants would deal with a group of diverse people who disagreed with them.

"Well, I'm 68 and I haven't been shot yet," Altizer responded.

Regarding the cancellation of this year's Airplane, Auto and Cycle Show, Altizer argued that there was never "any kind of statement" that event organizers could not have the show at the airport.

He said this was a fact misreported by the "one-sided" article in the Verde Independent. However, the article states that Organizer Wayne "Butch" Hunt "said it was his understanding that the chamber and others involved deemed the original location too dangerous and 'we couldn't have it there.'"

What was reported in the article was a statement by Hunt who has organized the event since its inception nearly 20 years ago.

An alternate location was offered to event organizers and the Chamber of Commerce.

The article specifically states that Airport Manager Tim Costello said there was "not an ultimatum given."

Altizer went on to state that "either the reporter did not choose to, or he did not talk to, for some reason, contact anyone that was in the meeting that took place... Now the group of people, Al, Larry, myself, the lady from chamber of commerce, Tim, the airport manager, and Angie were the ones that were present at that meeting."

When the Verde Independent learned of the cancellation of the Airplane, Auto and Cycle Show, Altizer was contacted directly since he was the previous president of the Cottonwood Airport Users Association. He was contacted during his campaign for City Council.

He refused to comment on the issue. He told the Verde Independent that he was no longer the president of the users association and he was not the right person to talk to.

Then, the Verde Independent contacted Gradijan. The article has comments from Gradijan, Chamber of Commerce Assistant Director Donna Schmidt and Costello.

There was one misunderstanding misreported in the article. The article states that Hunt was at the original meeting, which he was not. Hunt was in contact with the Chamber of Commerce, where he was explained the situation and shown the alternative site, which he rejected.

Altizer added that he is not against having shows like these, but security and safety issues need to be addressed. He noted other shows, in particular one in Wisconsin, where airplanes are roped off and people are not allowed to walk or drive on active taxiways or the runway.

Gradijan said, "I have never, ever been against the car show or the airport being used by the community at large, even though there's a big fence up there."

In response to hang gliders landing at the airport, Altizer said he has made diplomatic efforts to address the hang-gliding issue. He said when a hang glider lands without permission, it is dangerous.

Gradijan said he would go through the necessary Federal channels to address the hang gliding issue, including consulting the Airman's Information Manual and contacting the Federal Aviation Administration's legal office for an opinion.

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