WISCASSET, Maine — Wiscasset Selectman Ben Rines dropped a bombshell during the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, making a motion to present a warrant article at the annual town meeting in June authorizing the board to begin negotiations to close the Wiscasset Municipal Airport.
Selectman William Barnes seconded the motion, which caught the board by surprise, before Rines ultimately withdrew his motion.
Rines told the board the town needs help dealing with issues facing the airport and the town is not dealing with the right people.
“We need to have some serious discussions with the feds,” Rines said. “I believe the town wants to have the airport there, but we need to move off the dime and get things moving.”
Rines said the town needs assurance from the Federal Aviation Administration, citing concerns that civilian redevelopment at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, which includes the Brunswick Executive Airport, could negatively affect the revenue stream needed to operate the Wiscasset airport.
“We need to talk to Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Angus King and ask them for help,” Rines said.
Selectwoman Pam Dunning told Rines that she believed a motion to close the airport was premature. Selectman Jefferson Slack also cautioned Rines on the wording of his motion. Rines said he wanted to get the attention of the feds, and the motion would be a tool in getting negotiations started.
After further discussion, the board asked Town Manager Marian Anderson to contact Maine’s congressional delegation for help with the airport issues. When Anderson asked what help the town would be requesting, the first issue mentioned was trees from the Chewonki Campground that are growing into protected airspace around the airport runway.
Ken Boudin, a member of the Wiscasset Airport Committee, agreed with Dunning that a motion to close the airport was premature.
“We need all the help we can get,” Boudin said. “We have just begun working on these issues. No one is going to cut trees tomorrow or next year. Give us some time.”
Boudin also reminded Rines that civilian redevelopment at the former Navy air base in Brunswick has not harmed revenues at the airport. In fact, the revenues have improved, he argued.
Rines said he would be willing to table his motion until efforts were made to get some help from the congressional delegation. Dunning told Rines he could withdraw his motion or the motion could come to a vote, he could not table a motion. Rines decided to withdraw his motion, and Barnes withdrew his second to the motion.
Rines also agreed to work with the town manager to determine how Maine’s congressional delegation could help the town address concerns about the airport’s future.
Rines was reluctant to give Maine Yankee permission to use the Wiscasset airport in the event of an emergency without representatives coming to a selectmen’s meeting to explain what they would do in the event of an emergency.
A motion was made to allow Maine Yankee to use the airport during an emergency contingent on a representative from Maine Yankee coming to a selectmen’s meeting to discuss the issue. The motion carried 4-0. Selectman Tim Merry was absent from the meeting.