Tuesday July 9, 2013

SOUTH BURLINGTON (AP) -- Two Vermont cities were to hold public meetings Monday to discuss potential noise problems if F-35 fighter planes are based at the Burlington Airport with the Vermont Air National Guard.

South Burlington and Winooski planned public comment periods Monday evening before council members consider whether to take final positions on a proposal to replace the Guard’s aging F-16 fighter planes with the next-generation F-35s, which are louder than the older planes.

Last year the City Council in South Burlington, where the airport is located, voted 4-1 to oppose the F-35s. But in March, two of the opponents were voted out of office and replaced with councilors thought to be in favor of the airplanes.

South Burlington City Council Chairwoman Pam Mackenzie, an F-35 supporter, said she is determined to be fair at Monday’s meeting to all speakers.

"I want people to be respectful," Mackenzie said. "It isn’t going to be about hooting and hollering."

Much of the city of Winooski, which has not taken a position on whether to base the planes in Vermont, is off the north end of the airport runway.

Mayor Michael O’Brien said the council wants to hear from as many people as possible before it takes a position on the F-35s.

O’Brien told the Burlington Free Press that he and others on the City Council "have an idea of what we want to do."

F-35 opponents say the planes would be too loud to fly from the Vermont airport, situated among residential areas. Some fear the health effects and possible loss of property values.

But supporters say bringing the planes to Vermont would ensure about 1,100 high-paying jobs with the National Guard and the planes could be flown by the pilots to minimize the noise they would make.

The Air Force has set a mid-July deadline for public comment on the proposal.

The secretary of the Air Force is expected to decide this fall whether to base the F-35s in Vermont or elsewhere.