With Liability Insurance Procured, F-35 Debate Returns to City Agenda

Oct 15, 2013

Burlington City Hall
Credit WAMC/Pat Bradley

The city of Burlington has purchased an insurance policy for protection against potential lawsuits in connection with its airport. Now that the policy has been obtained, a delayed plan by the City Council to debate and vote on two resolutions related to basing F-35 fighter jets at the airport can be re-scheduled.

The U.S. Air Force has said that the Burlington International Airport, which is the host runway for the Vermont Air National Guard, is its preferred location to base up to 24 F-35 fighter jets. Opponents say the planes are too noisy and will cause other problems.

While exploring the legal implications of the F-35 debate, City Attorney Eileen Blackwood discovered that Burlington was not insured against lawsuits stemming from airport-related issues.  On Friday, the city purchased a policy that insures the city for up to $5 million in the event of a lawsuit.

Progressive members of the city council prepared two resolutions opposing hosting the planes at the airport, but discussion was delayed due to the lack of liability insurance. Ward 3 Progressive Vince Brennan says he’s excited the two resolutions can now come to the table.

Brennan adds that the second resolution will only be brought forward if the first is defeated.

City Council President Joan Shannon is working on scheduling a public meeting for October 28th to debate the F-35s and vote on the resolutions.  Shannon says adding the issue to their next meeting on Monday is impractical.

A final decision on basing the planes is expected from the Air Force on or about November 4th. That concerns Councillor Vince Brennan.

The liability insurance covers any issue regarding the airport, not just the F-35 debate. City Attorney Eileen Blackwood was unavailable to comment this morning, but according to VT-Digger.org, she will release her legal opinion this week on the city’s potential liability if the F-35's are based in Burlington.