VVTPO looks at regional airport proposal<br>Group wants public feedback on issue<br><br>

It hasn't fired up debate the way the new Cardinals stadium has, but the idea of a regional airport has sparked its own controversy in the Verde Valley.

After presenting its concept to the Clarkdale Town Council, the Verde Regional Airport Committee was urged to take it to the Verde Valley Transportation Planning Organization for a thorough review. The VVTPO heard the presentation this month and wants to hear more.

The members are calling for the public to come and tell them what they think. For that purpose, they have put the item on the Aug. 8 agenda and are extending the meeting to give sufficient time to the proposal.

"Our hope is that by notifying the public about this item on our agenda, we will get a good public turnout and hopefully educate ourselves and the public about this issue," said VVTPO member Mike Bluff.

Cottonwood Mayor Ruben Jauregui, who chairs the organization, said the VVTPO was the appropriate forum to discuss the concept. The organization coordinates information and planning for transportation issues around the Valley.

The Verde Regional Airport Committee is floating the idea of creating an airport between Cottonwood and Sedona – possibly off Beaverhead Flat Road, possibly somewhere else – to serve the flying needs of the public.

Jauregui said he was first concerned because the initial proposal was to close the Sedona and Cottonwood airports.

"We didn't think that was necessary," he said.

Within the past year, thousands of dollars have been spent in city funds and grants for the T-hangar at the Cottonwood airport and an update for the Airport Master Plan. Earlier, Howard Beck, president of the Cottonwood Airport Association, told the Clarkdale Town Council that the idea of a regional airport was "very, very premature."

The meeting begins at 8 a.m. at the county complex in Cottonwood, 10 S. Sixth Street.

Also scheduled to be on the VVTPO agenda is the Verde Valley regional roads program. The organization's technical subcommittee ranked five projects for fiscal years 2005 and '06, for which there is $432,052 available in federal aid and $338,441 from a Highway Users Revenue Fund swap each year.

The subcommittee has suggested that the two top ranked projects be funded.

The Northern Arizona Council of Governments requested that the VVTPO forward its recommended projects by Aug. 10.

Reconstruction of Montezuma Castle Highway was given the subcommittee's top ranking. The road, it was determined, needs upgrading and widening. The project would include turn lanes and pedestrian/bicycle lanes.

Cottonwood, meanwhile, wants money in 2006 for extending South Willard Street from Cottonwood Street to Mesquite Drive

Other projects ranked using NACOG's criteria were the reconstruction of the intersection of Broadway and Main in Clarkdale, a new industrial route in Clarkdale and reconstruction of three miles of Cornville Road.

At the VVTPO's July 11 meeting, members discussed transit issues. District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis said the county has some Local Transportation Assistance Funds (LTAF) available to possibly hire someone part-time to search out additional funding for public transportation in the Valley.

The VVTPO is searching for a qualified individual with a background in public transportation to coordinate efforts.

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