What is the point of having an airport?

COMMENTARY

RICHARD WINGER

Editor’s note: Former Mayor  Dick Winger served three terms on the Vero Beach City Council.

What’s the point of the City of Vero Beach having an airport, if 98% of the people can only use it to go to C.J. Cannon’s for a meal?   Think about it!

VB Airport Manager Eric Menger.

Yes, the airport jobs at Piper Aircraft, plus other enterprises, are vital to our economy.  But the landing facility, without Commercial Aircraft, can only be used by the 95% non-U.S. citizen flight training students, and the very rich who own their own plane.  How does that serve you and me?  It doesn’t!

While serving six years on City Council, and as Mayor, I am sure we spent at least 10% of our time approving a minimum totaling $15,000,000 worth of airport upgrades.  Granted the airport is in pristine condition, with new everything (Terminal Building, relatively new tower, fencing, lights, hangers, and upgraded runways).  But, how does that help us?  Beautiful, but useless to the average citizen!

Now we find Council, this coming Tuesday, is being asked to approve the “airplane aficionado’s self-serving” Airport Commission’s recommended ejection of Commercial Aviation because the matching grants will decline from 80% to 50% costing the Airport Enterprise $1,000,000 a year.
However, the issue is much bigger than dollars and cents.

Anyway, the City now is sitting on large amounts of cash from the sale of City assets, and the successful sale of the Electric Utility, for much more than the state commission economists said it was worth.  Washington, we know how to negotiate too!

Now we find out that the Hated Railroad is coming, whether we like it or not.  Our County Commission correctly threw in the towel on further hopeless lawsuits.  And, we find the railroad wants to put a Station in Vero Beach at the East end of the airport property to be intermodal.  If we are stuck with the damn train, I vote for riding to the Orlando airport by train in an hour.

Look, Vero Beach is a Community of Neighborhoods, and as I have repeatedly said, none of us want to be Fort Lauderdale.  But having Commercial Aviation and Railroad access is a major boon for us who live here and travel, and don’t want to drive one and a half hours to Orlando or West Palm Beach.
Don’t go backward City Council!  Find a better solution than penalizing the 98% of us who CANNOT AFFORD our own plane.  Add a charge to each of the tickets, or just plain finance it in the public interest.

Not being Fort Lauderdale does not mean avoiding all Progress and sticking our head in the sand!  Alternatively, I ask, do we really need 25% if the City’s valuable landmass tied up in an airport, which is of little value to us citizens.  I think not!  Keep its VALUE and allow us average people to go or come by plane or train!

Thank you for caring about our town. Let City Council know your opinion.

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