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woose.org: Media - Airport expansion opponents want all complaints heard
Airport expansion opponents want all complaints heard
The Worthington News (SNP), August 30, 2006


Reprinted courtesy of The Worthington News/SNP 2006

Members of We Oppose Ohio State (Airport) Expansion, or WOOSE, are continuing to push officials at Don Scott Airport to record complaints anonymously when the university's much-anticipated aircraft noise complaint system is up and running.

The university implemented AirScene, a $300,000 system designed to track flights and complaint trends, to better assist airport staffers' response to neighbors' noise complaints.

The system is operating, but consultants are working out the technical kinks, said Cathy Ferrari, external relations for the airport.

The official system launch is expected in a few weeks, Ferrari told the airport advisory board at its monthly meeting last Wednesday.

Airport officials had hoped to have the system up and running several months ago, but ran into some difficulty securing sensors on four area towers.

In the interim, members of WOOSE have pushed for the airport to accept anonymous complaints to protect neighbors from acts of retaliation.

WOOSE members expressed fear that if names, addresses and telephone numbers are recorded, retaliation could come from both airplane pilots and the university, an employer of many residents around the airport.

Airport officials and some members of the advisory board have long disputed those claims.

WOOSE's attempts to drive the point home met some public opposition at the advisory board meeting last Wednesday.

In a report submitted to the 20-member advisory group, WOOSE attached two e-mails allegedly from a student pilot and a member of Columbus Flight Watch, a Central Ohio airport advocacy group.

WOOSE President Dennis Hennen said members found an e-mail posted on the group's public Internet forum that criticized WOOSE.

It also outlined a Colorado group's attempts to chill noise complaints by alerting prospective homebuyers of noise complaints at each property.

The second e-mail, which WOOSE members believe is from an unidentified student pilot, contained harsh words criticizing airport expansion opponents.

The submission of the e-mails did not get a sympathetic response from advisory board members.

"This is completely inappropriate," said Paul Hammersmith. "This should not be included and distributed in a report."

OSU student intern Stephanie Boyer, who works in Ferrari's office, agreed. If the e-mail was legitimate, the student pilot made a mistake, but the outburst should not have been part of a public report, said Boyer.

While working in Ferrari's office, Boyer said, she has experienced comparable and inappropriate comments from airport opponents that should not be considered representative.

An advisory board subcommittee weighed in on the issue by recommending that the university accept and keep a listing of anonymous complaints, but "an address or specific intersection near a disturbance is necessary for any complaint to be recorded," said Chris Gawronski, noise guidelines subcommittee chairman.

The subcommittee reported the major concern for anonymous complaints was the ability of a few complainants to abuse the system by submitting many complaints about the same disturbance to skew the reports.

OSU officials have argued that anonymous complaints will hinder much-needed dialogue between the community and the airport.

Rosalie Bujarski, who represents Columbus Flight Watch on the airport advisory board, said the e-mail in question was simply "a personal exchange between a board member and a group from Colorado," and in no way represents the thoughts or plans of Columbus Flight Watch.

"This is not a strategy we are actively pursuing," she said.

Read more Central Ohio Community News at the Suburban News Publications Web site, SNPonline.com.

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