Everett City Council postpones its vote on Paine Field resolution

EVERETT — The Everett City Council won’t take a stand on commercial jet service at Paine Field today as advertised.

Vacation season and a packed council agenda are prompting the council to postpone a vote, possibly until Sept. 10, council Vice President Brenda Stonecipher said.

“It shouldn’t be perceived as any type of dissension. It’s really a scheduling matter,” she said.

Council members today were expected to vote on a resolution favoring commercial jet service.

Some opponents of passenger jet service at the county-owned airport speculated that a resolution’s absence from today’s agenda was a sign of political trouble.

Not so, said Councilman Mark Olson, who is chairman of the council’s transportation committee and has co-authored several drafts of a resolution.

“There is no fundamental disagreement,” he said. “(The) emphasis (of a resolution) may be up for debate.”

Stonecipher, who is serving as council president this week because Drew Nielsen is on vacation, said that she shot down an idea to introduce a resolution from the dais today.

The public has a right to be informed before a vote is taken, she said, saying she also felt it was important that all council members were present for a vote.

“As difficult as it is, I feel it’s important to take a stand one way or the other and to debate the issue,” she said.

The Aug. 20 meeting is the next meeting all seven council members are expected to be in town. However, the council already is scheduled to grapple with a ­contentious land-use proposal at that meeting.

The next time all seven members will be present with an open agenda is Sept. 10.

Council members say they’re hearing from plenty of people who support or oppose commercial passenger flights at Paine Field.

While the city has no legal authority to stop passenger flights, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and most council members back opening the airport to those flights.

A report released two weeks ago concludes that passenger service at Paine Field would attract and retain high-tech businesses and noise problems from expanding service could be remedied.

The city of Everett paid Thomas/Lane &Associates, a Seattle consulting firm, $70,000 to weigh the pros and cons of commercial air service at Paine Field.

Greg Hauth, president of Save Our Communities, the group opposing passenger flights, blasted the city for considering the resolution in favor.

“I would say it’s completely misguided,” Hauth said. “Their response is predicated on completely ignoring the facts.”

He pointed to the study’s conclusion that any effect of aircraft noise on surrounding communities could be minimized.

“We have tons of facts to the contrary from airports all over the country,” he said.

City Councilman Ron Gipson says he supports passenger jets at the airport, but said the study, which he called “fluff,” was a waste of money. He also sees no point in a city resolution, he said.

“Commercial flight is going to happen regardless of what local government says,” Gipson said.

Pursuit of commercial air service at Paine Field was named a top priority in 2005 by Everett’s Vision 2025 team, a committee appointed by Stephanson.

The council at its 2007 retreat also made commercial air service a top economic development task.

Paine Field and its three runways are located in unincorporated Snohomish County between Everett and Mukilteo.

It is home to the Boeing Co., Goodrich and Aviation Technical Services as well as other aerospace companies representing more than 35,000 jobs and $2.5 billion in annual payroll.

For years, people have argued over whether commercial air service from the Snohomish County-owned airport would benefit the community.

In May, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air asked the county about adding two to four flights per week from Paine Field to Las Vegas.

The city of Mukilteo also is taking part in the opposition effort, having hired Strategies 360 for $97,000 and exploring retaining an attorney to mount a legal challenge. They are backed in their cause by a majority of the County Council and leaders in the cities of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

The Everett Area Chamber of Commerce recently joined the Private Enterprise Coalition, a business advocacy group, to formally support passenger flights.

Stephanson said Everett also lent its support.

“The resolution is more than symbolic,” Stephanson said. “Airlines want to be where they’re welcomed, so I think it’s important that the largest city in the county — after taking a systematic approach to analyzing this — should add our voice. And I think it will make a positive difference.”

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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