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Wed, Jan 02, 2008

CRG Runway Controversy Reignites Interest In 2001 Letter

Opponents To Lengthening Say Former Chairman Made 'Covenant'

Six years ago in Florida, Jacksonville Port Authority Chairman Martin Fiorentino was trying to gain the votes needed to split the authority into separate entities to manage airports and seaports. In a reported move to compromise with lawmakers, he wrote a letter claiming the airport board had no intentions of seeking a longer runway at Craig Municipal Airport (CRG), and expressed hope future boards would honor that intent after the agency was split.

Fast-forward to today, the eve of a scheduled January 3 vote on a proposal before the city council's land use and zoning committee to extend the runway from 4,000 to 6,000 feet. The airport board wants the longer runway.

Proponents say it will be safer and more economically attractive for the community. Opponents respond the May 2001 letter from Fiorentino created a covenant not to extend the runway.

"I said I wanted something in writing, no more empty promises. He said, 'I will get that promise for you,'" Lynette Self, who served on the city council from 1999 to 2007 and opposed extending the runway, told The Jacksonville Business Journal. "That's how important the split was to the board. I took that to the bank."

Complicating matters is the fact the agency was, indeed, split. Fiorentino went over to the seaports side.

Aviation authority Executive Director John Clark dismisses the idea the letter, and a more limited 2001 authority resolution, bind the airport to Fiorentino's old statement.

"At this point in time, I would almost characterize the actions that took place then as irrelevant."

Whether the land use committee agrees will be clearer after Thursday's meeting.



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