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Top 10 Local News Stories of 2018: No. 6 -- Mile-Hi Skydiving Under Scrutiny After Skydiver Death, Noise Controversy

December 26, 2018
Federal Aviation Administration investigators Haitham Dhiyab, left, and Randy Kind walk toward the Mile-Hi Skydiving office on Oct. 19 while investigating the death of Logan Polfuss.

Top 10 local news stories of 2018

Through Dec.31, the Times-Call will count down the top stories of the year, as selected by the newspaper’s editors.

10. Longmont high school teams post successful post-seasons

9. Longmont allows recreational marijuana shops

8. Police officers cleared in shooting death of Gillie Thurby III

7. City commits to renewable energy by 2030

6. Mile-Hi Skydiving under scrutiny after skydiver death, noise controversy

Mile-Hi Skydiving continued attracting local attention in 2018, due to both the death of a man after jumping from one of its flights, and a new payment structure Longmont City Council enacted for land use at the business’ base, Vance Brand Municipal Airport.

The skydiving operation has been a source of contention in the city since being named as a defendant in a 2013 lawsuit filed by the Citizens for Quiet Skies group, which alleged Mile-Hi makes unreasonable noise and tried appealing its case to the Colorado Supreme Court, which threw out the suit in 2017 to affirm an appellate court ruling that sided with Mile-Hi.

But the death of 23-year-old Logan Polfuss — who mysteriously wasn’t reported missing until his girlfriend called police almost eight hours after his scheduled Mile-Hi jump — renewed scrutiny of the business. Polfuss body was found Oct. 19.

Mile-Hi has yet to publicly acknowledge Polfuss’ death or offer any explanation for how it occurred. His body was found in a field in unincorporated Boulder County near Vance Brand more than 12 hours after the flight.

The Federal Aviation Administration has ruled his death an accident, though it is still gathering information about the incident and has yet to issue a final report. The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office also is still investigating the death.

Weeks before Polfuss’ death, Longmont officials installed three cameras at Vance Brand, partly to more closely monitor Mile-Hi jumpers to gauge how accurately they confine themselves to the landing zones the business pays the city to use.

Residents near the airport have reported skydivers sometimes land on their private properties entirely outside not only designated zones, but sometimes outside of the airport’s boundary.

The payment structure for airport land use was updated at the end of 2017 by Longmont City Council to include a rate charged to airport users who rent land throughout the year, as well as less expensive monthly, weekly and daily rates.

City Councilwoman Marcia Martin suggested Mile-Hi has been skirting paying the amount it should for its airport use.

She said officials suspect Mile-Hi has refused to rent the amount of land it should to ensure its jumpers land inside a paid-for swath — which the cameras would document — and that the company has taken advantage of the new payment policy’s failure to define the frequency of land use.

Mile-Hi has been paying the less-expensive daily land use rates — contending it can pay only for the days it schedules jumps — that the city included in the new policy for more occasional users of the airport, rather than a yearly rate.

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com and twitter.com/samlounz .

 

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