In Its Runway Fight With the FAA, Martin County Will No Longer Take Federal Funds

"The FAA is going to grind us down and destroy us unless we de-federalize," said runway opponent Bill Shanley.

The county cannot just shorten the runway even if it wants to because shortening it without the FAA's blessing would violate federal laws, County Attorney Steve Fry said.

"You'd be provoking a confrontation with the federal government over their fundamental authority," Fry said.

Commissioners did not want to stop using the runway without FAA approval. But they voted 4-1, with Smith dissenting, to stop taking federal grants for the airport. As the existing grants expire over the next 20 years the FAA will have less and less say over what the county does at Witham Field, Weberman said.

Smith said fighting to shorten the runway was getting too expensive and hostile and that the FAA's position over the airport land issue may be a response to the county fighting the federal agency to shorten the runway.

"Pandora's Box has been opened. We asked for it and now we got it," Smith said. "The cost to get out of it is tremendous."

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