RIAC responds

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 3:45pm

To the Editor:
The Rhode Island Airport Corporation is again compelled to respond to misinformation included in a letter sent to the Editor on July 2, 2021. In this letter, Mr. Henry duPont makes several false statements, which we will continue to correct. In his letter:
Mr. duPont asserts that Block Island State Airport (BID) subsidizes Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport (PVD). This information is incorrect. In fact, the airlines at PVD subsidize Block Island State Airport by approximately $500,000 for direct costs as included in the FY2021 budget and continue to subsidize the airport on an ongoing basis. We have provided detailed information on this issue previously to our stakeholders and this publication. Mr. duPont also states that RIAC “defunded” an airport attendant in 2018. This is also not true.

He additionally states that RIAC canceled an aircraft parking expansion project. This is also false information. A Block Island State Airport ramp rehabilitation project, estimated at $1.9 million, is expected to begin during the fall off-peak season, pending final permitting and FAA grant approval. It is important to note that RIAC has previously informed the New Shoreham Town Council that it would submit data provided by the BID FBO (FlightLevel Aviation) to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a ramp expansion project consideration in the fall of this year. However, it remains to be seen if the New Shoreham Town Council also supports the increased aircraft activity at BID that this proposed project, if approved by the FAA, can be expected to attract. In recent public meetings some residents expressed opposition to aircraft noise (currently some Block Island neighbors have filed a lawsuit against RIAC regarding the airport noise). Therefore, in our letter dated July 12, 2021, RIAC has requested the Town Council’s point of view on this ramp expansion project at Block Island State Airport which will result in more operations and thus would result in more airport noise.
Mr. duPont also states that “RIAC plans to raise airport user fees and to turn our airport into an industrial park.” In the past two years, we received feedback from the council on possible land-use that included parking, storage, and a public water connection. We believe the Town made those suggestions in good faith and we initiated work on those suggestions by engaging our real estate broker to seek proposals that we can discuss with the Town Council. RIAC’s real estate broker is currently seeking proposals for both aviation and non-aviation parcels across the airport system - not solely at Block Island State Airport but at all general aviation airports - to provide additional services, and help offset the subsidy for airport users. There is no proposal to build an “industrial park for non-aviation businesses” on Block Island. These types of hyperbolic assertions are not productive and sow the seeds of distrust between a community and the public agency that is trying to serve their needs.
RIAC values productive public input and is looking for consensus. In our public meetings, we continue to see a clash between pilots and aircraft owners who propose airport expansion and neighbors that oppose noise that emanates from airport operations. One cannot have it both ways. RIAC is therefore turning to elected officials for clarity. Our letter, dated July 12, 2021 to the Town of New Shoreham seeks this clarity with specificity on a number of important issues. It is part of the strategic business planning process. For the last 2.5 years, RIAC has been engaged in these planning sessions that included 28 public meetings with elected officials and various stakeholders. As part of the transparency revolving around this process, RIAC created a dedicated webpage that includes 57 documents equating to over 3,000 pages of information on this process. This webpage is available at: https://www.pvdairport.com/corporate/general-aviation-strategic-business-plan.

We regret the misinformation included in Mr. duPont’s letter because it confuses the issues at a time when RIAC is working hard to gain clarity on its plans while seeking input from local elected officials, airport stakeholders, and the community at large. This misinformation, if not corrected, will cause undue anxiety and thus is not productive. It takes away from public discourse on legitimate issues that we all should continue to work together to safeguard public interest.

John J. Goodman
Assistant Vice President
Media and Public Relations
Rhode Island Airport Corporation