October 24, 2014
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Unbolt the doors, Donna

To the Editor:

It’s no secret that Rhode Islanders don’t want a lot of airplane gunk in their swimming pools, or in their beautiful wetlands. No matter. Leaders at the Rhode Island Airport Corporation appear to have a little secret in regard to this matter, which they have asked the Warwick City Council to listen to at a closed-doors session. You and I are not invited to attend. The topic is Buckeye Brook, the target of most of the deicing fluid being dumped into our wetlands.

So I’m wondering, what would happen if a large developer asked for the same favor? Would the City Council listen to the Leviton family talk about its wetlands problems at its Warwick plant in secret? Of course not. What then is so unique about the airport? President Donna Travis needs to unbolt the door here.

And what could possibly come out of a secret airport presentation on Buckeye Brook? Unless the litigation between the city and the airport is reinstated, there is no way the City Council can put in a single word about the problem. The protocol for this kind of meeting prohibits the asking of any questions or any discussions.
If the City Council agrees to visit the airport to hear about Buckeye Brook in private, then its hands are totally tied. It will have made a decision to discuss the points presented by the airport in future executive sessions – sessions that would be illegal under Rhode Island law.

The Rhode Island Open Meetings Law is very clear. Unless the city is going to buy or sell Buckeye Brook property, or sue or be sued by the airport, there is no way it can keep any secrets that the airport management whispers at this secret presentation. One possible reason for the secrecy might be an upcoming property acquisition that could draw speculators to make a quick buck while driving up prices.

Is that a possibility? Who would attempt to buy parts of Buckeye Brook from the city and then attempt to sell it to the airport at a profit?

What about the Leviton wetlands? Might the airport be attempting to buy that property as "mitigation" for damage done to Buckeye Brook as the airport has previously discussed? If that is the case, then let's discuss it in public where it belongs. There are enormous environment issues with that wetland. Buying a polluted wetland as a replacement for a healthy Buckeye Brook is an extremely bad deal for the people of Rhode Island.

Another possibility for making this secret pact to hear the airport in private is potential litigation. Might the airport be sued if its secret dealings with the City Council break out into public view? That could tie up the safety improvements project at the airport for years. Would this information enter the public domain? Of course it would.

Federal law requires full disclosure of any environment documents associated with the airport safety project, including wetlands impacts. So the airport could tell the City Council that council members can't release any information because it could lead to litigation, which would be very foolish indeed. This is all the more reason for a public process.

Deciding to attend this secret presentation will be the first major airport decision that Mrs. Travis has to make. Knowing her as well as I do, I am confident that she will think it through and realize that she cannot promise to keep that presentation secret. She would be well advised to be open to her constituents – including me – and inform airport officials that the presentation would be appropriate, but only as long as the public is invited to listen.

Richard Langseth

Executive Director

Greenwich Bay Watershed Group


Comments
4 comments on this item

If I lived around the airport I would not have a pool. Also, we are so close to the Bay why bother having a pool. Glycol is only a problem in the winter time when temperatures are below freezing and it is winter precipitating. Thank fully due to global warming temps are rising and although we will occasionally still have a blizzard or two the winter precip. days are lowering. So in a way how many days of the year are we really talking about glycol use ???? Spring No, Summer No, Autumn No, but a few days in Winter to keep things in perspective that this problem is not as widespread as Mr. Langseth makes it out to be. Mr. Langseth is trying his last card in attempts to slow or halt the airport expansion and that is the environmental card. Figuring environmental laws are strong that perhaps it will work in regards to the TF Green Airport expansion. I applaud him for his efforts as he doesn't waiver on his stance. The bottom line is RIAC will do what it takes to move forward and break ground this Summer. If it means buying, relocating wetlands it will. They had to agree to moving the softball fields which Mr. Langseth also made a big deal of. Folks don't you see Mr. Langseth does not like the airport. He does not want it in the city ! He would like it returned to the scrap junk yard it once was back in the 40's and 50's before the state bought it.

Michael2012:

This letter has everything to do with how to deal with open meetings questions and nothing to do with the underlying environment questions. The City Council has agreed to end an action in federal court based on certain criteria. Going to secret meetings with the airport corporation could cause avoidable problems.

Glycol is a problem by the way. You need to get out of a denial stage and face it head on -- and help find a solution.

Richard Langseth

Perhaps all they need to do is add another vacuum truck or two to suck up the excess spray that lands on the runway after the planes are hosed down. Currently I believe they only have 1 truck. Closed meetings don't bother me because I'm not into their business. The City Council has us in mind don't worry. We have very goot council men and women. The airport can create a few more jobs by adding more glycol collecting trucks. Problem solved.

Also, my theory of milder Winters that equal less glycol use is backed by climatological data and fiigures. Moving forward this will be a non-issue.

Michael2012: Airport management came up with the crazy idea to build the glycol digester plant for $25 million because they wanted to dump the glycol into the city sewer rather than pay a few bucks to ship it to a commercial digester. This is a great example of just how simple-minded the airport's administration is.

They built the $300 million Interlink to open up a couple hundred premium parking spaces that have brought in almost nothing in added revenue while saddling the airport with millions and millions in debt service for the stupid "tube to nowhere." Look at their executive bowling alley -- oh I mean office -- where each desk is about 20 feet away from the next desk. Very stupid project.

You are being terribly naive if you think open meetings issues are not important. And if you think milder winters add up to less glycol use you may be sadly mistaken. With milder winters come more bothersome storms and more glycol use.

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