WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-0 to lease hangar and office space to Vacationland Skydiving at the city-owned airport, but councilors must still approve a lease for that business.

Airport Manager Randy Marshall told the council he does not object to having a skydiving operation at Robert LaFleur Municipal Airport, but he has safety concerns about where a drop location would be. He also said he thinks it unwise to allow a business in the main hangar which is a shared space and where the city has more than $1 million of equipment stored. Unauthorized people would be going in and out of the hangar, he said.

But Mayor Nick Isgro disagreed with Marshall and said his objection makes it appear as if the city is not business friendly. Brad Fisher of Vacationland ultimately wants to build a hangar at the airport and should be allowed to lease hangar space, as requested, for the spring and summer season this year, according to Isgro.

“It is critical to his business that we do lease him some hangar space — not put him outside,” Isgro said.

Marshall said his job as airport manager is to consider the safety of all operations there and mitigate hazards. He said allowing unauthorized people in the hangar leaves the city significantly exposed and is an insurance concern. He said he conferred with a compliance officer with the Federal Aviation Administration in making his recommendation.

Randy Marshall, manager of LaFleur Municipal Airport in Waterville, discusses options for a skydiving company to come to Waterville during a city council meeting at Mid Maine Technical Center in Waterville on Tuesday. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

In a terse exchange, Isgro asked Marshall not to interrupt him and said “the attitude has not been ‘how can we make it work.’ We can do it, this council can do it, and we’re making it sound like a cataclysmic event to rent it for the summer.”

Fisher, meanwhile, said Vacationland does practice safety.

“If we don’t have safety, we don’t have a business,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Councilors amended the resolution they voted on to say a drop off zone, or where skydivers would land, will be a location preferred by Vacationland.

Marshall, meanwhile, said the only person authorized to designate a drop zone is the airport manager. He also said the council can do whatever it wants to do, but he just wanted his recommendation on the record.

“I urge you to consider reviewing further the actual safety implications associated with it,” he said.

Councilor Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, who is a member of the Airport Advisory Committee, said he believed Marshall’s recommendations are valid, but it is important that the city be business friendly and ensure economic vitality.

“I can’t think of anything more prudent than to endorse this kind of enterprise …” he said.

Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, agreed, saying Fisher’s proposal is sound.

“I’m all in,” he said. “Let’s do things that are going to move forward, not hold things back.”

City Manager Michael Roy said the city will have to come back to the council with a lease proposal for Vacationland.

In other matters Tuesday, the council took a final vote to rezone 3, 5 and 7 Park St. to allow People’s Salon & Spa, owned by William Dangler, to move the properties from Temple Street.

The council on  March 1 took a first vote to rezone the Park Street properties from Residential-D to Contract Zoned District Commercial-A. Conditions of the contract include that 5 Park be used only as a beauty salon and spa, professional office or residence; that 3 Park continue to be used as two residential apartments; and 7 Park continue to be used as a parking lot only.

Also as part of the contract, any new construction must meet the dimensional requirements of the Residential-D zone and screening must be installed along the north line of the property. A compact evergreen hedge must be planted and maintained to attain a height of not less than 6 feet within five years and all landscaping must be planted within six months of adoption of the ordinance, according to conditions.

Councilors voted 6-0 to accept a proposal by the Maine Municipal Association to provide a consultant to help the city search for a new city manager at a cost of $6,400, to be paid for in the 2020-21 budget.

The council also voted to extend to June 1 two parking passes on The Concourse for patrons of Yardgoods Center until other arrangements may be made. The most recent passes expired March 15.

Councilors voted 5-1 to renew a contract with Waste Zero Pay-As-You-Throw trash bags, with Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, the lone dissenter. Francke said before the vote that he has been opposed to the purple trash bag program, which he described as a burden on elderly people and those who pay rent.

Councilor Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.