Runway widening will harm rural valley

To the Editor:

An article in a local paper on July 5 states that the Macon County Airport Authority met that week to get an update on the widening of runways to allow for use by larger aircraft. The news that the widening is on the way is shocking as the people who will again be most impacted, those living in Iotla Valley, had no information whatever that it was even being planned. With the county having property records and all the information means available, it is obvious that neighbors were not informed because the power brokers know they can move ahead with their schemes without the bother of hearing from people who might object and whose voices will not be listened to anyway. 

The Authority chairman takes pride that representatives from Harrah’s Casino had flown in the previous week and were happy they could fly into Franklin instead of Asheville. The comparison is ludicrous, as the Franklin airport cannot ever reach the traffic the Asheville airport has because Asheville is much more centrally located, its airport already has large carrier flights, and its location on a flat plain is conducive to further growth which Franklin’s airport — being hemmed in by mountains — precludes. 

It is also mentioned that people staying at Old Edwards Inn were pleased flying into Franklin. The widening will allow larger jets to fly in and more flights to come in daily. So gamblers for the casino and some wealthy folks will reap the benefits while the neighbors bear the brunt of more pollution, more noise, more traffic on our curvy roads, and the eventual irreplaceable loss of our beautiful valley.

Much is made of the economic windfall the airport presently brings to our county with the untested promise being that more airport growth will result, of course, in more jobs, more business opportunities, and economic ripples to benefit all Maconians. I would like to know how many local people were and will be hired by W. K. Dickson, the engineering firm that did the runway extension and now will do the expansion. With all the rosy predictions, are the jobs going to be created by turning N.C. 28 into another fast-food lane and by widening and straightening Airport and Iotla Church roads and all other access roads into our community? It is frighteningly sad that this may be the nightmarish vision that airport and county officials have for Iotla Valley.

Living in a democracy should mean that people, especially common citizens, have a say on their destinies. How can we influence what happens to our lives when decisions are made without notice by a powerful few? Trying to be heard by government these days is a futile and demeaning pursuit as those of us who protested against the runway extension painfully know. That is why citizens don’t attend meetings, that is why we are called apathetic, that is why we are silent now. 

Last question: is the widening going to take the runways closer to Iotla Valley School?

Olga F. Pader


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