One suspicion raised by the local organization Preserve Rural Orange is that the newly proposed UNC airport has more to do with private desire than the public good.

UNC’s lead on the formation of an Airport Authority, Kevin Fitzgerald, was already hard-pressed to justify the recent fabulous (as in: “almost impossible to believe; incredible”) claims made by UNC’s consultants that the airport would generate $40M to $53M in yearly economic activity.

Those claims are utter balderdash (read the draft report [PDF]).

Now it appears, as the Chapel Hill News’ Mark Schultz reports over on OrangeChat, that the report had some private backing – to the tune of $30,000.

According to public records, two prominent businessmen — Jim Heavner and J. Adam Abram, contributed $15,000 each toward $100,000 paid to Talbert & Bright. The money helped retain the consulting firm and fund its working paper, according to Kevin Fitzgerald, associate dean of the medical school, which contributed $20,000.

The remaining $50,000 came from the university, and both the med school and university contributions were not from state appropriations, UNC spokesman Mike McFarland said in an e-mail.

I’ve met Jim a few times. He has always been cordial. He owns WCHL 1360 (wonder if they’ll report the link?) and was nice enough to invite me to one of his radio round-tables. I’ve known that he has opposed moving Horace-Williams for years. I assumed that was why WCHL news seemed to be less than critical of the report than other local media outlets. I’m surprised that he is comfortable underwriting this draft report which makes some rather tenuous extrapolations in justifying the $40M figure.

It is great to see Mark tear into a local story. As much as I like the Carrboro Citizen (Happy First Birthday!), I don’t want Chapel Hill to be a one-horse town.

By the way, Preserve Rural Orange is having another community meeting. Laura Streitfeld sends this:

Since our first meeting in late September, news and letters about UNC’s airport plans have generated increasing interest from the wider community. Committees have begun to work on research, outreach, speaking with officials and continuing to gather petition signatures to build our case against building an airport in rural Orange County. At last count, there were 1980 signatures– that’s 180 more people who signed during the week and a half after we presented petitions to county commissioners. While the petitions came out of our community’s concerns over being a likely site, we stand with all of rural Orange County in urging UNC to move its operations permanently to RDU or another existing airport.

This organization is still in its early formation and there will be many opportunities for those who wish to be more involved. If you know of people who don’t use email but would like to be included in our communications, please send us their names and phone numbers. Our website is almost complete and we’ll let you know within the next day or two when it’s ready
for you to log on and get more information. The web address is:

preserveruralorange.org

At our next meeting we’ll hear from local residents who would be affected if an airport were built. We’ll also hear from others including elected officials and community leaders, who will speak of the potential impacts on the environment, our health, and the economy that would result from building an airport. There will be time for questions and answers afterward.

Attached is a flyer with the meeting announcement. We anticipate a large turnout, so please bring your folding chairs just in case!

Please come and be part of the discussion, and spread the word. Here are the details:

Monday, October 27th 7:00 pm

White Cross Recreation Center 1800 White Cross Road, Chapel Hill [MAP]

Speakers will include:

  1. Senator Ellie Kinnaird
  2. Bernadette Pelissier, Candidate for Orange County Commissioner
  3. Mitch Renkow, NC State Economist
  4. Elaine Chiosso, Executive Director, Haw River Assembly
  5. Jutta Kuenzler, Kuenzler Wildlife Habitat Preserve
  6. Nancy Holt, Carolina Concerned Citizens
  7. Local Land Owners
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