Paine Field advisers hit snag

EVERETT – The panel studying the future of Paine Field could decide today whether to pay someone to examine the pros and cons of bringing passenger flights to the airport.

The county-appointed group had discussed hiring a consultant to look at how an increase in flights would affect property values and development surrounding the airport.

But a couple of committee members say that’s not why the group was assembled.

The panel of 12 local elected officials and businesspeople was appointed last year by Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon to review a 1979 agreement by local governments that discourages passenger flights at Paine Field.

If the panel sticks to that assignment, then there’s no need to hire a consultant to study the broader issue of expansion of commercial service at the airport, said Michelle Robles, a Mountlake Terrace city councilwoman.

On the other hand, she said, “if my mission is to determine whether we need passenger service out of Paine Field, that changes it.”

Proponents of commercial flights say they would be good for the county’s economy. Opponents say noise and other effects on neighborhoods would outweigh any other benefits.

The panel today will discuss its next steps.

“We’re bringing the fact-gathering phase to a close, and now how do we accomplish the mission?” said Peter Camp, the county staff member who runs the committee. The panel has been meeting regularly since March.

Camp and several panel members agree they should know what value a consultant’s information would bring to the group before deciding to hire one.

“You have to be clear what you want if you’re going to hire a consultant to do something,” said Tom Gaffney, himself a business consultant and owner of Gaffney Construction of Everett.

Committee member Tom Hoban, co-owner and chief executive of Coast Real Estate Services, also has his doubts.

“I want to be very careful about how we use any of the public’s money in our work,” Hoban said. “I’m concerned about using consultants, and frankly, right now I’m focusing on the language in the (document) itself.”

Panel members said they wouldn’t rule out hiring a consultant if the group agrees more information is needed. Gaffney said it could help the group understand more, for example, about any restrictions that could be put on airport use.

Still, he said, “you need to have a clear set of goals. I’m not sure we have a clear consensus about what we’d want from someone.”

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or sheets@heraldnet.com.

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