2012-03-22 / News

Council mulls hiring airport consultant

By Marc Filippino
Staff Writer

Biddeford citizens and city council members lively debated a proposed $750,000 contract for a Scarborough based engineering consultant to secure federal grants for the Biddeford Airport.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, several residents protested against money that would federally fund the consulting .rm, Stantec, stating that the airport does not need money to go toward expansion. Several councilors rebutted and said putting the federal funding toward Stantec was necessary to .x maintenance issues that plague the 77-year-old airport.

Councilors eventually voted to send the issue to the city’s capital operations/projects committee for review.

Biddeford Airport Manager Tom Bryand told the council that the airport has a number of infrastructure issues that need to be addressed, including the addition of a fence. A committee that consisted of .ve members, including Councilor Brad Cote, unanimously picked Stantec out of a group of several other consulting .rms, Bryand said.

Bryand said the contract would have Stantec signed for a four-year minimum with an option to have projects .nished within a .fth year. Bryand also said that if the airport does not meet the current standards setup by the Maine Department of Transportation, the state could start withholding funding.

Biddeford resident Roland Pelletier said Stantec was incapable of running successful engineering projects, such as tree cutting in the Biddeford area, and should not receive the funding. He compared it to the “three stooges” and said that the city could do better without Stantec.

“We have engineers in Biddeford that can do just as good,” Pelletier said.

Others rejected the idea of hiring the .rm and said they wanted little to no federal control. Ward 2 councilor David Bourque said he believes the Biddeford Capital Operations/Projects Committee should review the contract before the council holds a .nal vote on the agreement.

“I don’t think that we should be spending that kind of money on the airport,” Bourque said. “It should remain in control of the city and be guided by a federal voice. We shouldn’t have to provide all the things that need to be regulated by the (Federal Aviation Administration) that may force us to do things we don’t want to do.”

Biddeford resident Randy Seaver said prolonging the process to grant federal funds would only hurt the city and that Biddeford should act soon to take advantage of a potential economic proponent.

“If you are going to have a good airport, don’t have it there withering on the vine,” Seaver said. “It is a possible tool for economic development, and possibly be a be bene.t to the community as a whole.”

Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant echoed Seaver’s sentiment and said the grant would be put toward infrastructure improvements and maintenance. He said if the grant money for the airport was contextualized to re.ect Biddeford’s economic development there would be an overwhelming positive response.

“This is not about expansion. This is about bringing the airport up to par,” Casavant said. “If you want to kill the snake you starve it. I can’t think of any other community that turns away federal dollars.”

By the end of the discussion several councilors motioned for the contract to be reviewed by the capital operations/projects committee before being voted on by the council. The vote passed by a 6-3 margin, with councilors Ready, Mills and Council President Rick Laverriere voting against the motion.

Staff Writer Marc Filippino can be contacted at 282- 4337 ext. 213

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