By: Aidan Quigley for VTDigger, Nov. 11, 2019
South Burlington officials are worried their city might have to foot some of the bill for noise mitigation after the arrival of the F-35s, reviving a decades-long debate about airport governance.
While the Federal Aviation Administration is funding 90% of the noise mitigation programs, the funding source for the 10% local match is up in the air. The program is expected to cost between $50 million and $80 million and take around 20 years to complete, according to Nic Longo, the airport’s deputy director of aviation administration.
Some South Burlington city councilors say they do not want to contribute to that program without more of a say in the operations of the airport, which is owned by Burlington.
“I am adamantly opposed to the city of South Burlington contributing our property taxpayer money for this local match to support a Burlington managed-asset because the current governance structure does not give us any say,” South Burlington City Councilor Tom Chittenden said.
A fleet of 20 F-35s is expected to be in place by the end of next summer. The fighter jets will be nearly four times as loud as the F-16s they are replacing.
Airport leaders say they are confident that a “creative” funding source can be found, and they will not have to ask the municipalities for funding for the programs, which will feature sound insulation and help selling homes if eligible residents decide to move.
Longo that he was optimistic the airport could work with utility companies to partner sound insulation and energy efficiency initiatives, using funds from the utility companies to pay for both.