The Owls Head Airport Committee (OHAC) survey recently mailed to our residents is the latest effort that could serve to further divide our town. The members of OHAC are Ken Wexler, Lauren Dillard, Lauren Swartzbaugh, and Carson Courchaine. Airport Manager Jeremy Shaw has managed to join the committee although there may already be moves to squelch his presence (an agenda item on the 9/29 OHAC meeting was “J. Shaw’s role on OHAC while also a county employee.”) The survey appears to continue an OHAC member’s very public 20-year vendetta against the airport. This has not stopped a single airport project but has cost taxpayers mightily in project delays and cost increases. The recent moratorium and this new effort to enact anti-airport ordinances could now create significant potential financial liability for our town.

The list of “concerns” in the survey is full of inaccuracies and apparently designed only to scare people. Here are the facts:

  • Access to Knox County Regional Airport by air traffic is governed by Federal law. Access cannot be denied by any Owls Head ordinance.
  • Owls Head cannot legally limit vehicle access to Knox County Regional Airport.
  • Airplanes are noisy on the ground and in the air. Some of the loudest planes at Knox County Regional Airport are flown by Penobscot Island Air. They are single-engine prop planes, not jets. People who are bothered by aircraft noise should have thought twice about moving near an airport or under runway approaches.
  • The curfew at Knox County Regional Airport is voluntary and cannot be legally enforced.
  • Knox County Regional Airport and Knox County have repeatedly said there are neither plans nor need to further extend runways or to expand the existing Knox County Regional Airport perimeter. The proposed sale of Ash Point cemetery to Owls Head Town will actually shrink the Knox County Regional Airport perimeter. The sale of the Owls Head Transportation Museum parcel to Knox County Regional Airport doesn’t change the perimeter of the airport at all.
  • Current aircraft using Knox County Regional Airport are at the weight and width limits of the runways. The entire airport would have to be rebuilt to accommodate larger, heavier aircraft.
  • Charter airplanes cannot be legally excluded from Knox County Regional Airport.
  • There are 13 “Dark Sky” locations in Maine. Owls Head is not one of them.
  • New hangars at Knox County Regional Airport are being built mostly to accommodate planes already here. Their only impact on Owls Head will be to increase sorely needed tax revenue for our town.
  • Knox County Regional Airport has been operating for more than 79 years without causing ground water problems for Owls Head residents. An OHAC member repeatedly publicly claimed the presence of endangered aquifers under Knox County Regional Airport. There are no aquifers under Knox County Regional Airport according to the top three hydrogeologists in Maine who have put that in writing.
  • An OHAC member also publicly claimed the 400-foot extension of the main runway was driven by a desire to sell more fuel at the airport. That was an FAA project driven solely by safety and environmental concerns. The amount of fuel sold at Knox County Regional Airport isn’t on the FAA’s radar.
  • The flyer mailed to Owls Head residents before the Town’s Interlocal Agreement vote showing large commercial jets lined up on a taxiway, implying that could happen at Knox County Regional Airport, was totally misleading. None of those aircraft could ever land at Knox County Regional Airport because of runway length, width, and weight capacities. Killing the Interlocal Agreement that the Select Board had worked on for months has left our town exposed with little recourse. An OHAC member publicly promised to draft a new agreement that would be acceptable to Knox County Regional Airport and the FAA. That new agreement was rejected by Knox County and the FAA.

What OHAC is doing to our town is divisive and will only continue 20 years of harassment of the airport. It needs to stop before what little is left of the relationship between Owls Head and Knox County is irrevocably destroyed. Hopefully the ill-advised moratorium on hangars, which were approved by the Owls Head Planning board, will not end with a major lawsuit filed against our Town by Knox County and the FAA. How will OHAC explain why our residents should have to pay for that with tax increases? That will not be covered by the Town’s insurance.

Instead of continuing the long vendetta, how about thanking Knox County Regional Airport for:

  • Being an economic engine for Midcoast Maine.
  • Providing jobs for about 100 people who work for Cape Air, Downeast Air, Penobscot Island Air, Wiggins Air, TSA, FAA, – Knox County, Avis and Budget Car Rentals, Beyond the Moon Gift Shop, the Apron Restaurant, and other service and consulting organizations – 19 in all.
  • Providing emergency transport for people awaiting organ transplants, emergency life-saving medicine delivery, or emergency transport to a burn center.
  • Creating a source of additional tax revenue for our Town.
  • Serving as a life line to Penobscot Bay island communities.
  • Making it easy for people to access all that our great area has to offer.

There is no need for new ordinances, especially for ordinances that cannot address the “concerns” in the OHAC survey. What is needed is a clear statement by OHAC of what they are trying to achieve with their actions against Knox County Regional Airport.

Owls Head Budget Committee

Robert Hirsch
William George