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DISPUTES SWIRL OVER OGDEN AIRPORT OPERATION

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A lot of fingers are being pointed at the Ogden-Hinckley Airport, and not many of them are aimed at the sky.

There's former manager Jeffrey Pappas, who resigned after working just six months. He doesn't have much nice to say about the fliers who use the airport or the users' association they belong to.Then there are the pilots and other users, who accuse Pappas of being abrasive, tinkering with contracts and a variety of other misdeeds.

And everybody is critical of Ogden Mayor Glenn Mecham, under whose jurisdiction the city-operated airport falls.

With complaints festering over a closed runway, a vacant restaurant and what some call generally dilapidated facilities, it all appears due for the political spotlight when the Ogden City Council readdresses the runway issue July 5.

The closure of Runway 7-25 nearly a year ago in particular seems to have generated frustration.

"I haven't the faintest idea who's behind all this," said Court Hansen, co-chairman of the airport users' association, a pilot group. "There's something crazy going on."

Ernie Durbano, who keeps his helicopter and a pair of small planes at the airport, said reopening the runway has bogged down in overblown concerns.

"We could fix that thing in a hurry," said Durbano, chairman of the ad hoc committee that explored funding for the runway. "I don't know why they (city administrators) are dragging their feet."

Mecham acknowledged the frustration, and said some problems are inexcusable and inexplicable, such as the inability to find a new operator to lease the restaurant that closed late last year. But he promised the city will get food service back, and he defended the methodical review of funding options to repair Runway 7-25.

The idea, he said, is to identify long-term solutions.

"These are major ongoing matters, we wanted to give it the most thorough analysis we could, before bringing them to a conclusion," Mecham said.

Some pilots, meanwhile, also are voicing suspicion that Pappas was dismissed for the purpose of creating a scapegoat.

Pappas moved from California to take over management of the airport less than six months ago. Now, he's quit.

The resignation, he said, was on his own accord after concluding that the city administration was too bullied by airport users to support needed changes.

"Ogden City does not want a professional airport manager; they want Andy of Mayberry," he said, referring to the rural sheriff of TV fame.

Public Works Director Andy Anderson would say only that the city asked Pappas to resign and that he agreed.

Regarding Pappas' contentions that administration wouldn't support his decisions, Anderson said: "He has shared that perception with me and others, and I totally disagree with it."

Pappas says the administration didn't back him when he tried to challenge arrangements that he believes favored one of a pair of competing aircraft service businesses. He also questioned whether the city was getting its share of a flow fee from fuel sold at the airport.

Users, meanwhile, say Pappas was surly and reclusive.

"He wasn't a "people' person, I guess," said Mike Stevens, another co-chairman of the users association.

The result has been that the city has appointed John Wolfe as the airport's acting manager. It's a move that isn't likely to win any friends, since Wolfe was the previous manager who moved to close Runway 7-25 for safety reasons.