Tiny airport blames Obama motorcade for ruined runway

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2011 11:33 AM
Tiny airport blames Obama motorcade for ruined runway

By Zach Howard

CONWAY, Mass (Reuters) - A tiny Massachusetts airport is suing the U.S. Secret Service saying an unauthorized motorcade for President Barack Obama last year caused $676,000 in damage to its one and only airstrip.

Obama will not be welcome again at Marlboro Airport, located in the city of Marlborough, Massachusetts, without all parties signing a prior agreement specifying "who will be responsible for what", G. Robert Stetson, Jr., the airport's majority-owner, told Reuters.

That's because the array of vehicles, including SUVs, fire trucks, armed limousines and police cars, that met the Marine One helicopter when it landed on April 1, 2010, wrecked the 1,682-foot asphalt runway and surrounding turf, said Stetson.

Obama's visit to the region came after it was hit by severe flooding.

While the helicopter did have permission to use the airstrip, located about 30 miles west of Boston, Stetson said the vehicles in Obama's motorcade were not cleared to use it, because it's designed only for light aircraft.

When he saw the damage after the visit, Stetson said he was "annoyed."

"Having experienced this, I would not welcome the Commander-in-Chief back here until we had some kind of before-the-fact written understanding of who was responsible for what," Stetson said in a phone interview.

The airport's owners filed an Unfair and Deceptive Trade lawsuit this week against the Secret Service, seeking $676,000 for the damage, and an additional amount for legal fees, Stetson said. The suit alleges the Secret Service did not verify the airport's weight limits.

The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Worcester, Massachusetts, where authorities said a summons had been issued to the Secret Service but a response had not yet been received.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the suit.

Stetson said the airstrip has not been repaired, due to a lack of funds, but it still is serviceable.

Marlboro Airport is a privately-owned, public use airport. It sits on private property controlled by a real estate corporation in which Stetson and his wife are majority owners.

Stetson said he sued after other efforts he made to satisfy his claim failed.

(Reporting by Zach Howard; Editing by Jerry Norton)