Airport commission struggles to fill roster, achieve quorum

While the Archuleta County Airport Advisory Commission (AAC) struggles to maintain a full membership roster, achieving a required quorum at monthly meetings isn’t much easier — particularly under newly-relaxed attendance requirements.

The AAC normally consists of seven voting members appointed by the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) and four ex officio members without voting privileges. Ex officio members generally include one individual each from the town and county governments, the airport manager and a representative of Avjet, the fixed base operator.

A few months shy of four years old, the AAC has had some difficulty maintaining full membership, especially in 2008. Whether due to untimely member resignations or term expirations, the commission has suffered at least one vacancy, and more often two, in all but two months of this year.

Believing stringent membership requirements were partly to blame, county officials and commission members moved to relax them in August. Now, while voting members will still serve three-year terms of office, residency requirements have been largely eliminated and members need only attend seven of every 12 monthly meetings.

Until August, candidates being considered for commission membership had to be Archuleta County residents. However, the original commission bylaws failed to clearly define “residency” and confusion ultimately arose as “part-time” residents began applying for commission membership. In at least two separate cases over the past couple of years, residency was finally determined, based on where an individual cast ballots in national elections.

To further confound the issue, one county commissioner insisted AAC members be fulltime county residents, while the other two felt such a restriction dramatically reduced the potential pool of applicants. The division ultimately led to the elimination of residency requirements.

Today, according to BoCC Resolution 2008-53, “Each member of the Commission must have reached the age of eighteen (18) years on the effective date of his/her appointment and shall have served on a working group of the Commission or volunteered for an airport function prior to application for membership on the Commission.”

Without consideration toward the ambiguity of that statement, the resolution goes on to say, “Members of the Airport Advisory Commission shall attend at least seven (7) monthly, meetings per year. Failure to do so without reasonable excuse may subject a member to removal by the Board of County Commissioners.”

Because Resolution 2008-53 is incredibly vague, one could argue that an 18-year-old Dallas resident, who, upon visiting Pagosa Springs, has volunteered to direct parking at a Stevens Field hot-air balloon event, may be qualified to serve on the AAC.

Furthermore, with appointees already allowed five unexcused meeting absences, offering “reasonable” excuses may preclude them from attending any of the remaining seven.

Perhaps, this new guideline partly explains why the commission has failed to assemble a quorum of at least four voting members for two of its last three monthly meetings.

In fact, even before the policy change, the AAC barely achieved a quorum during three previous 2008 meetings, as just four voting members showed. All told, since January, half of the commission’s 10 scheduled meetings have included four or fewer voting members.

Certainly, lingering commission vacancies contribute to the dilemma, but to date, no public records show which members were absent a particular meeting, why they were absent, or whether they were officially “excused.” Nevertheless, meeting attendance is clearly a problem that doubtless curtails AAC effectiveness.

As commission members gathered for their October meeting a few weeks ago, commission chair Michael Arbuthnot announced the lack of a quorum. While clearly displeased, he mentioned having an idea to address the persistent problem, but wouldn’t elaborate, choosing instead, to “introduce it at a later date.”

In a recent phone interview, Arbuthnot said he thought only five of the seven voting members were required to attend a minimum of seven annual meetings, while the other two (selected by the BoCC) were not bound by any such rule.

Though his interpretation was based on another clause in Resolution 2008-53, which states,

“The Advisory Committee may make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners as to five (5) of the seven (7) voting members,” the document seems to suggest the attendance rule (as stated above) applies to all AAC members, whether voting, ex officio, recommended by the members, or selected by the BoCC.

Regardless, Arbuthnot has apparently mentioned a possible solution to county officials, but would not divulge details until making a formal presentation next month. Meanwhile, he will seek input from fellow commission members at the Nov. 20 AAC meeting … provided a quorum of voting members is present.

Arbuthnot hopes the BoCC will approve a solution sometime after the first of the year. Until then, he plans to note meeting absences and whether members notify him beforehand.

According to the Archuleta County Web site, current voting AAC members include Arbuthnot, secretary Kate Steen, Jim Carey, Marc Weiler, Michael Neder and Ralph Goulds. At present, there are two commission vacancies, including one voting member and one ex officio member representing the town of Pagosa Springs.

Anyone meeting the aforementioned membership requirements who may be interested in serving on the AAC should contact county administrator Greg Schulte at 264-8300, or stop by his office in the Archuleta County Courthouse.

chuck@pagosasun.com