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Candidate Q&A: Prescott Airport — Does it need improvements?

Prescott council, mayor hopefuls weigh in on Prescott Airport improvements

Mayor candidates, top from left: Mary Beth Hrin, Greg Mengarelli, and Jean Wilcox. Council candidates, middle row from left: Steve Blair, Connie Cantelme, and Phil Goode. Council candidates, bottom row from left: Greg Lazzell, Alexa Scholl, and Joe Viccica.

Courtesy photos

Mayor candidates, top from left: Mary Beth Hrin, Greg Mengarelli, and Jean Wilcox. Council candidates, middle row from left: Steve Blair, Connie Cantelme, and Phil Goode. Council candidates, bottom row from left: Greg Lazzell, Alexa Scholl, and Joe Viccica.

Editor’s note: This is one of the key issue questions posed to Prescott City Council and Mayor candidates recently by the Daily Courier. The candidates were asked to answer a number of questions in 75 words or less. Voters will choose from among the candidates in the Aug. 29 primary.

As the City of Prescott has focused on a need for heightened economic development, one deficiency has consistently emerged: the Prescott Municipal Airport.

City officials have long been eyeing improvements the airport’s terminal and runway to make it more attractive for commercial air traffic.

Still, at a recent airport master-planning public meeting, residents from nearby neighborhoods such as Pinon Oaks voiced concerns about growth at the airport, and the additional noise it would bring.

Prescott Mayor and City Council candidates weighed in recently on the airport, and the importance of expanding and improving the facility:

Should the city take steps to improve its airport to encourage more commercial air traffic? Why or why not? What are your priorities for the airport?

Council candidates

Joe Viccica: Having flown the majority of my flight hours out of Ernest A. Love Field through Embry-Riddle, I feel I have a unique perspective on airport improvements. One improvement we should be actively saving and acquiring grants for is a new terminal. Beyond the job opportunities we could attract for aviation, weather, and business students, we should have a world-class terminal to welcome guests and residents to our world-class city. Our airport is a great engine for local economic development.

Steve Blair: Absolutely we should continue to improve our airport. We need the commercial and the transit air service as well as protecting our contract with the federal government to provide fire-fighting services. We also need to protect our relationship with Embry Riddle and the economic power house they are to this community and region. I would like to see a new airport terminal for regional air service. Positive positive.

Connie Cantelme: Yes, we need a vital, functioning airport for economic development. This asset goes hand in hand with a successful business environment. Remember, businesses pay taxes, that makes us all successful.

Phil Goode: In order to support smart commercial development, reliable service, and updated aircraft, the city needs a modern terminal with upgraded runways. This can be achieved by a very modest investment by the city through substantial grants and matching funds. The ratio is approximately a nine to one return on investment.

Greg Lazzell: Yes, but with a controlled approach on the number of commercial traffic. The airport area is prime for light industrial businesses, as a city we need to encourage and promote those that are interested.

Alexa Scholl: The city should take steps to improve the airport to encourage more commercial air traffic. I also think that the city should work collaboratively with communities around Prescott to make our airport beneficial for the region. An expanded airport would also allow high paying commuter jobs that would help retain young families in the area.

Mayor candidates

Greg Mengarelli: If Valdosta, Georgia (pop. 57,000) can have regional jet service, there is no reason Prescott can’t. To accomplish this we need to partner with our neighboring communities to create a regional airport authority, make the necessary structural improvements to the airport, and utilize the expertise of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University to make regional jet service a reality. Imagine the convenience of no longer driving to Phoenix to ‘catch a plane.’

Jean Wilcox: The city clearly needs to move forward with an Airport Master Plan that improves the facility, provides an attractive and user-friendly terminal, and accommodates passenger as well as freight aircraft. Improvement of our airport is a critical piece of Prescott’s economic future. We have no rail line and we are 40-50 miles from the nearest interstate highway. Planning will help us determine whether there will be a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhoods and if so, how we can best reduce the noise and disturbance from increased air traffic. The airport is already the 5th busiest in the state, and is an important training ground for aviation students at Embry-Riddle and the other flights schools located at the airport.

Mary Beth Hrin: Absolutely. I believe the expansion and regionalization of our airport holds the key to bringing high-tech, clean jobs to the city. Embry-Riddle University is expanding and we need to keep the best and the brightest our nation has to offer in Prescott. And in order to do this, we must have an airport which serves the business community, not just the consumer. My first priority would be to build a new terminal. Once completed, FAA grants would be available to pay for the lengthening of the runway so the airport can meet our 21st Century needs.