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Skydive Laconia proposal remains unsupported

April 20, 2011
Despite pleas from the proposed business operators of Skydive Laconia, the Gilford Board of Selectmen has decided to stand its ground, and made it clear the board is not in support of the proposal.

Proposed business operators Tom and Mary Noonan addressed a letter to the board in regards to their vote, made at a prior meeting, to not support the proposal to jump start Skydive Laconia at Laconia Airport in Gilford, mainly due to potential liabilities involved.

Chairman of the Board John O'Brien noted that the board did, in fact, receive the letter in response to the board's stance, yet felt the board was unwavering in their current opinion of the proposal in Gilford.

"We received a letter from the proposers; he was unhappy that we did not listen to his proposal from him," said O'Brien last Wednesday night. "As Selectmen, we have a responsibility to look at liabilities and the impact on public property and abutters."

While the board is concerned with the potential landing area, in close proximity to the fire training facility, the police pistol range, and potential controlled fires in the training facility area, Selectman Kevin Hayes said the board is also concerned with the relative proximity to the Laconia Airport altogether.

The Laconia Airport Authority also does not support the Skydive Laconia proposal at this time.

Hayes explained that while the business proposers could perform a skydiving demonstration or presentation in order to assuage concerns, the board felt that a demo or presentation on the actual plan would not change or reduce the chance of liabilities within the plan that Gilford may face if the town and the LAA were to support the proposal.

While liabilities are a concern, so are the consequences of these potential liabilities in the eyes of the Selectmen.

"Right now, the airport is self funded. Some planes' insurance carriers may not allow them to fly or land at Laconia Airport in this case," said Hayes.

Noonan and his wife still feel strongly about the proposal, which was evident in his latest letter addressed to the board, where Noonan offered to publically present his business proposal. Noonan said while areas such as Gilford Fire Rescue's training facility are a concern, he noted that modern day parachutes also have increased accuracy and directional control similar to an aircraft.

Noonan also addressed concerns over aircraft in the proximity of skydivers. He said that while there is a rare chance for a tragic accident, the collision of an aircraft and a skydiver is less likely to occur than the collision of two planes in a worst case scenario, based on statistics.

"It's a shame, really," stated Noonan in the letter. "Not that you voted to oppose our operation, but that you did it without seeking out all of the available data. We are experts in our industry, and I can assure you of a number of things."

Noonan stated that the Laconia Municipal Airport is an "ideal location" in terms of size and air traffic. He also touched on the economic benefits of the proposal, and stated that this operation alone could produce a dozen new jobs in the area and bring in more than 20,000 people from April late October.

Noonan believes that the LAA has used "big government bureaucracy" to stall the proposal, and that the general public would support the idea otherwise.

"The airport is intended to serve the community as a whole, not just a select few in a position of power and authority. As Selectmen, it is your duty to ensure that any decision that affects the community as a while and its economy is reviewed to the fullest extent before issuing a rule," stated Noonan.

While business proposers have pushed to address the board's concerns in an open, public forum, the Selectmen agreed to keep their stance as is, and are not in support of skydiving operations at Laconia Airport.

North Country Environmental
Martin Lord Osman
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