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Small business turned down, airport gets additional $30,000

City council votes to approve MORE C.A.R.E.S dollars in Twin Falls while rejecting the request of local business to improve our regional airport.

The city council prevented a local business owner from opening a bookstore in our airport and granted our airport manager an additional $30,000 to his $262,000 budget for heat pumps on Monday night. Six of the city council members were present in the council chambers, and Shawn Barigar called in on the phone. 

Airport manager Bill Carberry came to ask the council for an additional $30,000 and to award a contract to Terry’s Heating & Air Conditioning, a local business, to install heat pumps with enhanced air filtration in our regional airport. The originally approved amount for this upgrade was $262,000, which apparently was not enough. Not to worry, dear taxpayer, this money will be coming from the federal government under the auspices of the C.A.R.E.S act. The city council approved the request in a typical 7-0 vote.

Sequoia Schmidt, the owner of DiAngelo Publications Inc., approached the city council for the second time to request approval to put a small, local bookstore in the Twin Falls Regional airport terminal. Mrs. Schmidt reiterated several times during her presentation that she was requesting no money and no additional airport employee time or impact. Sequoia asked for a trial period of three to six months to attempt to open a small bookstore in the airport terminal. Ms. Schmidt offered to put up all the money, labor, and staffing costs — she even offered to reset the proposed area that the bookstore would occupy if her business venture failed. A local business owner and entrepreneur was willing to foot the bill to give a considerable facelift and improvement to our airport terminal on her dime, at no cost to the city. 

Enter the bureaucrats. The airport advisory board president and the airport manager Bill Carberry both spoke to the infeasibility of the request. Mr. Carberry in particular seemed to chafe at the idea of adding another retail space to the airport terminal. His reasons were vague: there is already a restaurant in the terminal (which has nothing to do with a bookstore), there is not enough room for the venture (Ms. Schmidt offered a detailed plan and multiple locations for her idea), and there is no plan for such an establishment (to which I would ask, “but how does one plan for such an establishment other than asking to start the process?”) The airport board president echoed Mr. Carberry’s concerns about there not being enough room.

The city council took an interesting tack on this issue, with several of the members who are normally ideologically opposed siding with each other. Mayor Suzanne Hawkins, councilman Greg Lanting, and councilman Christopher Reid all initially sided with Ms. Schmidt in voicing support for the idea. Councilwoman Nikki Boyd was strongly opposed to the idea – she serves as the liaison to the airport advisory board. Vice mayor Ruth Pierce and councilman Shawn Barigar both suggested that the bookstore could be combined with the existing restaurant in the airport terminal, an idea which made little practical sense when you think of the logistics of sandwiching a bookstore into a dining facility and trying to merge a publishing business with a food service business. Ms. Schmidt, who moved her business along with several employees to Twin Falls specifically to contribute to the economy here, made a good case for the council to allow her to open the bookstore. 

Mayor Hawkins made several attempts to persuade Mr. Carberry to think more deeply on the issue, but ultimately she changed her support for the idea to a no vote. Her reasons were that she trusts the airport advisory board and believes that they know best. Councilman Reid moved to approve the request, with council Lanting offering a second. Ultimately, they were the only two members of the council to vote yes: the motion failed in a 5-2 vote. I for one am very interested in how we can support local business owners, and having free-market competition in a public space such as the airport terminal is exactly the kind of outside-the-box thinking this city will need as we continue to grow and expand. 

If you disagree with the votes of any of the council members, you can email them with your opinions and concerns. Remember, they represent you, not their advisory board members’ interests or opinions. If you feel strongly that entrepreneurs and small businesses should be supported by the city council, you should also consider that when voting for the next city council. Election day is November 2, 2021, and early voting has already started.

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