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November 15, 2018

Fryeburg airport board may restructure, but critics fear 'dictatorship'

The Eastern Slope Regional Airport in Fryeburg could soon be managed by a smaller, more efficient board of directors — but some members of the governing body overseeing them are unhappy with the possible change.

Eastern Slope Airport Authority members will vote Nov. 27 whether to adopt new bylaws that would slim the board from 24 members to 11, the Conway Daily Sun reported. The large size of the board makes it unwieldy and can prevent a quorum at meetings, supporters of the rule revisions claim.

“The current bylaws are terrible, all you have to do is read them," said authority member Rick Hiland, who helped draft the new ones, as quoted by the Conway Daily Sun. "I've been a member of many boards of directors, and you want them to be lean and mean to run the organization effectively.”

But other members say restructuring would unfairly consolidate decision-making.

"The new bylaws basically put all the power in a few people and take it away from the towns," said Barry Trudeau. "That's what people are upset about."

The newspaper reported that Connie Harte, a director from Brownfield, accused the board’s four-person executive committee of already exerting too much influence, discouraging other directors from attending meetings.

“It was pointless for them to go because you were running it like a dictatorship," Harte said. "You never listened to anything anybody had to say."

The size of the board is determined by the authority’s bylaws, which establish directors representing the 16 towns served by the general aviation facility: Bridgton, Brownfield, Denmark, Fryeburg, Hiram, Lovell, Porter, Stow, Sweden, and seven towns in New Hampshire.

Fryeburg is represented by four directors; Conway, N.H, has three; other towns send one director apiece to the board.

There are also board members from Oxford County in Maine, Carroll County in New Hampshire, and the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The executive committee administers much of the board’s work and oversees daily operations. Policy is set by the board, which meets quarterly and reports to members of authority, which includes town managers and selectmen from each community in the service area.

As a result, more than 70 people are eligible to cast ballots in the authority’s bylaw vote, Hiland told the Sun.

Eastern Slope Regional Airport, which operates a single 4,200-foot runway, provides the equivalent of 74 full-time jobs and has an annual economic impact of $4.4 million, according to a 2006 state report.

Many municipal airports in Maine are overseen by smaller governing bodies. The Auburn-Lewiston Airport, which serves two of the state’s largest cities, has a nine-member board of directors.

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