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Owls Head residents shoot down airport agreement

By Stephen Betts | Jun 01, 2021
Photo by: Stephen Betts Approximately 140 people turned out June 1 for a special town meeting at the Owls Head municipal building.

Owls Head — On June 1, Owls Head residents overwhelmingly rejected a proposed inter-local agreement negotiated by selectmen with Knox County over how to deal with potential future growth at the airport.

The vote was 124 to 14 against the proposed agreement. Selectmen said it was the largest turnout they can recall for any town meeting, particularly a special town meeting.

Opponents claimed the new agreement would have taken away rights the town had with the prior agreement.

Ken Wexler, who serves on both the airport committee and the planning board, said a citizens group is developing a new inter-local agreement and expects that the group can present it soon to selectmen.

Airport Manager Jeremy Shaw pointed out after the meeting that the citizen group proposed items to be added to the agreement that was negotiated last year, and the Federal Aviation Administration said those would not be acceptable to the federal government.

Wexler said he believes Knox County would negotiate again if the town rejected the one put before residents June 1.

Budget Committee Chair Robert Hirsch said the private operators at the airport collectively are the second largest property taxpayer in town, generating about $50,000 in annual revenues.

Hirsch said there is a proposal for new hangars that is being opposed by some people that would deprive the town of an additional $60,000 in annual tax revenues.

Jared Schmelzer, a vocal opponent to the proposed agreement, said the town would be giving away its rights by approving the article on the special town meeting. He said the FAA can dictate things to the county but not to the town.

Selectman Linda Post said she was not surprised by the rejection of the agreement, but by rejecting the proposal, the town will have no seat at the table on airport issues other than its own ordinances.

The 20-year inter-local agreement, approved in 2001 by Knox County Commissioners and the town residents, expired June 1.

The full expired inter-local agreement and the proposed new one are linked below.

Owls Head Selectmen, from left, Chair Tom Von Malder, Linda Post, and Gordon Page and Town Clerk Susan Wilson listen as moderator Fred Newcomb opens the June 1 special town meeting.
Owls Head Town Clerk Susan Wilson swears in moderator Fred Newcomb at the June 1 special town meeting. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
Knox County Regional Airport Manager Jeremy Shaw spoke at the June 1 Owls Head town meeting. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
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Comments (1)
Posted by: TOWN OF OWLS HEAD | Jun 01, 2021 21:20

Stephen, the agreement expired today.

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