Avstar Aircraft of Washington, Inc.

10415 172nd St. E., Hangar A1
Puyallup, WA  98374
office (253)770-9964
or (253)770-0120
email:  avstarair@att.net

The county is running amok!

What started off as a discussion of authority to install a 24-hour security area at Pierce County Airport/Thun field has turned into more.  Oh, so much more.

Here is the initial issue, presented in the form of a timeline:

In August of 2014, the gates that are on the entrances to the north and south areas of our airport went from 12-hour card operation (6pm to 6am) to 24-hour card/code/buzz-in operation.  This effectively shut off the general public from accessing those areas under most circumstances, yet allowed four businesses located at 'center field' to enjoy the benefits of the restricted access/unfair competition the county placed upon the remaining businesses that are now 'behind the fence'.

A point that needs to be emphasized here is the buzz-in.  From the gates, there is a call-box that visitors can call selected businesses and individuals who can then enter a code over the phone line to open the gate.  In terms of business operation, if I were to be interrupted from a critical operation that I perform to buzz someone in, this could create a possibility of an error in my work.  This not only applies to my operation, but any other operation who's staffing levels are subject to this possibility, whether here at Thun Field, or at Tacoma Narrows Airport, where similar measures are being constructed.  The simple 'answer' to this problem would be to remove my company from the directory; that would further create the unfair competition advantage that has already been placed.  I am in a 'Damned if I do, damned if I don't' situation.

We kept track of the first month's activity, as we saw it, and at the September meeting of the Thun Field Advisory Commission (TFAC), I read a prepared statement.

Comments at that meeting, by Airport Administrator Deb Wallace, included:

  • A response to my authority question:  No rules, regulations, or laws require the security; it was her decision, and 'not subject to debate'.
  • Requesting a copy of the notes (which were provided) so they could undertake some of the efficiency items I noted.

Realizing that the wheels of government work slowly, I waited a couple of weeks to see if any of the items would be addressed; they were not.  On October 7, 2014, I sent this letter to Brian Ziegler, Director of Public Works for Pierce County, who is Ms Wallace's supervisor.

In turn, a response was 'written' by Mr. Ziegler, however it doesn't take too much examination to see that Deb Wallace actually wrote it.

The direct responses to my concerns are not evident at this point, and although I didn't realize it at the time, I now believe it was a delay tactic.  Subsequently, I addressed a letter to three members of the Pierce County Council;  this was sent on October 25, 2014.

Although I received a response from the assistant (Ms Lewis) to Council Chair Dan Roach referencing this would be looked at in an upcoming work session, I again received no direct response.  This turned out to be another delay tactic.

Ms Wallace sent a review to the County Council concerning the security.  In retrospect, I find it troubling that the only gate (on both airports) they are concerned with disabled folks is the one that is in front of a business owner who is hearing-impaired, and they are ignoring the needs of the public by not making all the access points available for any person of any disability.  When I was in the permit process for my new shop, I was told I needed to make provisions for folks of all kinds of disabilities.

Again I sent a letter to Pierce County Council members disputing (with evidence) Ms Wallace's claims, and asking for their assistance.

No response was received on this call to action, either.  At the regularly scheduled meeting of the TFAC in November, discussion was made concerning not only the application of the gate system, but also the information requirements to obtain a gate card.  A motion was made, seconded, and unanimously passed to send a letter to the County Council requesting the gates be kept unlocked during normal business hours.

On December 17, 2014, I was notified by phone of an actual visit planned by Council Chair Dan Roach after the first of the year; I was led to believe it would occur in early January.

On December 18, 2014, I met with Michael Carver, Deb Wallace, and Valerie Thorson; this meeting was called by Ms Wallace, and had the following agenda items:

  1. November Meeting review
  2. 2015 Commission mission and goals
  3. Security gate data update

My take-away from this meeting.

By the next day, the delay tactics of all the above 'no responses' had finally set in, but I still had no idea what that was all about.  In recalling the tidbit I picked up about Councilman Roach's visit to be in February, I then wrote this email.

As of this writing, another 'no response'.

My Office Manager, Janice, does a good job of monitoring the pulse of events that could affect our business and the airport.  In her review of upcoming activities earlier this month, nothing out of the ordinary was detected.  However, on December 24, 2014, I received an email from a close business associate; this email contained a link to the County Council's recently published calendar for January, 2015, that disclosed this piece of information.

Suddenly, all the delay tactics were made clear, and may I present another timeline:

In late September or early October of 2014, Ms Wallace and her supervisor, Mr. Ziegler, realized they had indeed opened the proverbial can of worms, and needed to devise a way around it.  The proof of that is Ordinance 2014-108 was requested by the Public Works Department.

On November 24, Ordinance 2014-108 is proposed and put into record by co-sponsors Roach and Flemming, coincidentally the representatives of the council districts that house Thun Field and Tacoma Narrows Airport.  The next day, it was referred to committee.

On December 9, the Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee recommended a 'Do Pass'.

Then on December 16, final consideration is set for the council meeting of January 13, 2015.

Please note:  The Thun Field Advisory Commission (TFAC) and Tacoma Narrows Airport Advisory Commission (TNAAC) were originally created as a voice of the community to advise the Pierce County Council on matters that affected the airport(s) and surrounding community(s).

This left me with the following unanswered questions:

  • What is the emergency that is causing them to skip the step of the community members advising the county council, such as the TFAC and TNAAC that were created and thusly appointed to perform?
  • Is the council by-passing that step by using the TFAC's December 8th letter as the opinion on the subject?
  • What is the purpose of the elected officials passing off their DUTY to answer to the voters for a mid-level bureaucrat having 'her way'?

I posed those questions to Michael Carver, Chair of the TFAC.  His response and I quote:

"...This is your fight, and as I stated (twice) in the meeting with Deb on the 18th, I do not have a dog in it.  I have fulfilled my role as chair by voicing disapproval for the 24 hour lockdown, brought the issue to a vote, and drafted the letter recommending the council act.  I have sat through two contentious meetings being forced into the uncomfortable position of trying to maintain calm as others disrupt our basic role with politics and bickering..."

But, the picture is now much larger than the gate issue, and Mr. Carver, with all due respect, you fail to see that.  The focus of the gate issue is what started the process, but the county bureaucrats are looking to validate the authoritarian move by Ms Wallace by giving her even more autonomy, without oversight by the Council.  This will prove to be a very dangerous move if this resolution is passed; it could very well lead to more onerous rulings that would coincide with the aforementioned cronyism.

With that final thought in mind; I encourage all readers that have an interest in this bad ordinance to clear their calendar for the meeting of the Pierce County Council, scheduled for January 13, 2015 at 3:00 PM, to be held at 930 Tacoma Avenue South, Room 1045, in Tacoma, Washington.

(The above information posted 12/27/2014)

Additional updated information has been moved for ease of use.