Haverhill airport beacon on hold

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, March 15, 2019

NORTH HAVERHILL — The Selectboard has decided to scrap plans, for now, to install a beacon at Dean Memorial Airport after dozens of residents in the area raised concerns about light pollution.

The board voted, 3-2, at its March 4 meeting to disband its Beacon Review Committee and stop further installation activity with the beacon. Selectboard members Fred Garofalo, Tom Friel and Darwin Clogston voted to put the beacon on hold. Outgoing Selectboard Chairman Wayne Fortier and Selectboard member Chris Luurtsema were in the minority.

The airport commission acquired the beacon last year for $4,200, but it would have to pay thousands more for the infrastructure to install it. Interim Town Manager Glenn English this week said there is no more money in the airport commission’s budget this year for testing, which was a factor in the vote.

“They basically put it on hold for a year,” English said. “It’s sidelined for at least a year, and we’ll see what happens.”

In addition, Airport Manager Dennis Cunningham resigned effective March 8, and English appointed Road Agent Stuart McDanolds to serve as acting airport manager. The part-time position has an annual stipend of $10,000.

Cunningham was a major proponent of the beacon, a safety measure that would help small planes landing at the airport’s 2,500-foot runway. But much of the public feedback during test runs of the rotating two-light, beacon was negative — 68 opposed, just 7 in favor.

English said he could not discuss the circumstances of Cunningham’s resignation, saying it was a personnel matter.

But he said the airport commission has had a “very tough year in terms of revenue,” one factor being the loss of income from an old farmhouse on the airport property that had been rented out to residential tenants.

“We had to shut that down due to environmental and building code issues,” English said.

Whether the beacon should be permanently installed at the airport is a petitioned warrant article slated to be discussed at Saturday’s Haverhill Town Meeting. It is advisory only.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.