Ketchikan officials say state out of line over airport report

Posted: Monday, February 10, 2003

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- The Ketchikan Gateway Borough has fired back at state criticism of how its airport is run, citing undocumented claims, unprofessional behavior and hidden agendas in an inspection report.

Borough Manager Roy Eckert sent a letter Thursday to Bob Doll, the Department of Transportation Southeast director, two months after Doll outlined problems listed by a state inspector. Doll's original letter said the inspector ''revealed sufficient deficiencies to threaten continued operation.''

Michael Binkie, a state airport safety and compliance officer, in November outlined deficiencies he detected in maintenance, training, documentation, staffing, organization and safety.

Eckert said he was not apologizing for taking so long to respond.

''I am not apologizing for the delay, due to the fact that the alleged deficiencies in the Ketchikan airport operations were not well documented, and I was not given any copies of Mr. Binkie's supposed supporting documents, which has resulted in my having to take the time to do my own investigation to see if there is any basis for Mr. Binkie's conclusions,'' he said.

He said he asked for Binkie's report within 10 days of Doll's letter but only recently received the inspector's report to Doll.

He said Binkie should have visit him during the inspection.

''From what I have learned, it appears that Mr. Binkie was here not on a routine inspection, but was here based on some complaints by disgruntled employees that have regularly made similar complaints in the past, apparently for personal agendas,'' he said.

Eckert said he believes the state is trying to gain operation of the airport.

Eckert also suggested that the state has inappropriately inserted itself into a local political issue -- the borough's mutual aid agreement with the city of Ketchikan for fire protection at the airport. The city council recently voted to terminate that agreement unless the borough provide funds to train city firefighters in airport rescue and firefighting techniques.

Doll said Friday his office provided copies of his letter and Binkie's memo after the city filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents, which are public records. He said he had no intention of making the information public and ''the public disclosure interfered with the process I hoped would take place to resolve those issues.''

According to Ketchikan airport manager Dave Allen, a problem with the airport's runway and taxiway markings had already been identified by the Federal Aviation Administration and the FAA gave the borough until July 30 to remedy the situation.

He said the airport has records of training and an FAA inspector reviewed them during a recent inspection.

Allen said he needed more information about other essential documents Binkie said were not available before he could respond.

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