RIP: America’s Lethal F-117 Stealth Fighters?

America’s F-117 stealth fighter has been in a state of limbo. In 2008, the U.S. Air Force officially retired the black, angular warplanes but they never entirely went away. For eight years, the radar-evading aircraft have rested in climate-controlled hangars at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada.

Here’s why — when the F-117s retired, Congress required the Air Force to maintain some of the planes in case they were ever needed in a future war. The flying branch even kept flying a handful, most likely as guinea pigs for stealth-penetrating sensors … or some other mysterious hardware.

Well, that shouldn’t continue for much longer. This week, the House Armed Services Committee voted to remove the requirement that certain F-117s “be maintained in a condition that would allow recall of those aircraft to future service.”

That would allow the Air Force to finally send the Nighthawks to the sprawling Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, according to Flight Global, and will likely permanently end the F-117 as an airplane capable of operations. In other words, scrapped.

Although the dry desert conditions in Arizona are ideal for keeping aircraft viable, Flight Global reports the Nighthawks will “probably be torn apart or less likely, scavenged for hard-to-find parts.” Due to the sensitive nature of the Nighthawk’s stealth technology, it would not be surprising for the Air Force to dismantle and bury them. A few will surely make attractive museum pieces.

So ends the world’s first operational stealth aircraft.

Although dubbed a fighter with the “F” designation, the Nighthawk was exclusively a ground-attack aircraft designed to slip past radars and anti-aircraft missile systems.

The development and combat history is a major story in itself, as the F-117 took a mere 30 months to design — lightning fast for an at-the-time cutting-edge military aircraft. It would later see action over Panama, Iraq and Serbia. Sixty-four were built including five prototypes — and one was shot down over Serbia in 1999.

Because of its mark on history, the F-117 is iconic, although considerably less practical today. Knowing nothing about the warplane and just going by its still futuristic looks, it’d be hard to guess it’s more than 30 years old.

F-22s and B-2s — both stealth warplanes — fill in for the Nighthawks today. And the United States plans to produce thousands of stealthy F-35 multi-role fighters in the coming years plus a new hard-to-detect bomber … the B-21.

Yes, it’s sad to see the F-117 go. But keeping them flyable and in climate-controlled hangars is asking a bit much.

This piece first appeared in WarIsBoring here.

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons. 

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Tesla Motors 1Q net loss widens on Model X woes

AP Auto Writer

DETROIT (AP) – Electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. brushed off a big first-quarter loss and cheered investors with news that it plans to accelerate its production plans.

Tesla’s loss rose 84 percent to $282 million in the first quarter as it struggled with parts delays for its new Model X SUV. The company’s stock-based compensation costs also more than doubled during the quarter to nearly $90 million.

The loss, of $2.13 per share, far exceeded Wall Street’s forecasts. Analysts polled by FactSet expected a loss of 87 cents per share.

But Tesla’s shares jumped 3 percent to $229.48 in after-hours trading after the company said it’s pushing ahead its plan to make 500,000 vehicles per year to 2018, two years earlier than scheduled. That’s up from 50,000 vehicles in 2015.

Tesla said it remains on track to deliver 80,000 to 90,000 vehicles this year after resolving the Model X production issues. It also reaffirmed that production of the lower-cost Model 3 car will start in 2017. Tesla has set July 1, 2017, to start production of the Model 3 and wants to make 100,000 to 200,000 cars in the second half of the year.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has a desk and a sleeping bag at the company’s Fremont, California, factory, said he celebrated the first flawless production of a Model X at 3 a.m. last Friday – eight months after the company started deliveries to customers.

He stressed that the Model X – with its gull-wing doors and free-standing rear seats – is much more complicated than the Model 3, so industry watchers shouldn’t assume the company will have similar production problems. Tesla also will be tougher on suppliers who can’t meet its deadlines, he said.

“No element of Model 3 can be approved unless manufacturing says it’s easy to manufacture,” Musk told analysts in a conference call Wednesday evening.

Tesla unveiled the Model 3 on March 31. With a starting price of around $35,000, it will be the most affordable car in the company’s 13-year history. Tesla said more than 325,000 people put down a $1,000 deposit to reserve the car in the first week after the unveiling. Musk said customers should order now if they want to receive their car in 2018.

Musk also called for manufacturing experts to join the company. The plea came as Tesla confirmed that its vice presidents of manufacturing and production are both leaving the company.

“Tesla is going to be hellbent on becoming the best manufacturer on earth,” Musk said. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in a bunch of short-term issues, but in terms of what matters for the future, I think that’s the most critical thing.”

Tesla delivered 14,810 Model S sedans and Model X SUVs in the January-March period. That was lower than expected, largely due to the Model X delays. But it was still a 48 percent increase in deliveries over the same period a year ago.

First-quarter revenue rose 22 percent to $1.1 billion. The company said Model X prices – which start around $80,000 – were about 30 percent higher than for the Model S.

Tesla says unadjusted figures do not reflect its true performance because accounting rules limit how it records revenue for leases. On an adjusted basis, the company lost 57 cents per share, beating Wall Street’s forecast for a 60 cent loss.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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The Camaraderie of Flying Small Planes

Frank Granelli, 67, bought his first model airplane in 1970 and never looked back. Today, he’s a member of and representative for the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and a fixture at local fields like the one in Enfield used by the Ithaca Radio Control Society (IRCS), where he teaches newcomers young and old with his characteristic patience and warmth (and a “buddy box” that lets him take over control, just in case things start to get a little out of hand). 

On a recent brisk but sunny afternoon, with a bit of a breeze to provide a slight challenge for fliers, Granelli and about a dozen model plan enthusiasts met at the Ithaca fields, located off of Mecklenburg Road. The IRCS just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and continues to grow. Last summer, 50 people come out to the club’s annual open house, to be held on June 11 this year. 

Every Monday starting in June, club members come to the field to rally around beginner pilots on “training nights,” teaching them how to safely fly their planes. Many have the backup insurance of a buddy box, or an alternate remote control that the teacher can use to take over for a new pilot that’s heading off course. “We train people all the time who have never flown before,” Granelli said. 

“It’s really important that if a kid gets a plane for Christmas they know what the rules and safety regulations are, “ he added. “You have to be respectful.” 

“Help is so important,” agreed Burt Markowitz, member of IRCS since 1968. “Once you see how it flies and you get excited about it, then you’ll continue with the hobby, but trying to do it by yourself is not the way to get started.” 

And that’s the beauty of the hobby and the community that surrounds it, they said. “It’s a friendly group,” said Frank’s wife, Ann Granelli. “You can show up just about anywhere unannounced, and they’ll be very welcoming.” But once you get good, you’ve got to give back later and help someone else in return, they said. 

It’s this passion for responsible model airplane flying that led Granelli to volunteer for the role of associate vice president for AMA’s District 2, which includes southern New York. As part of his job, he attends meetings where local lawmakers are considering drone laws that may interfere with model airplane enthusiasts’ ability to fly. This year he attended two Tompkins County Legislature meetings to explain AMAs rules and regulations and why he believes members of AMA should be exempt from laws regulating drones. 

One thing Granelli will add about his life, almost as an afterthought, is the fact that he got his real pilot’s license in 1972. He had his own small plane, and for many years he and Ann would fly all over the East Coast—everywhere from Atlantic City to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and to Washington, D.C. 

“I haven’t flown much in the last 10 years,” he said. These days he sticks to the miniature versions, which he insists are almost as much fun, though he’ll never forget the bright, clear day when he was flying home by himself and “Top of the World” by the Carpenters came over the plane’s radio. 

Granelli particularly loves teaching people how to fly, which led him to quit his job as a director of marketing and sales for a paint and flag company to become the editor of an online magazine geared toward beginners called Sports Aviator, a job he enjoyed for about eight years until he retired in 2011.   

Jim Rundle, president of IRCS, said people often rekindle the love they had for model planes in childhood. “A lot of people got interested when they were younger,” he said. “Then with their careers it fell by the wayside, but then in retirement they picked it back up again.” 

“I’ve never lost that boyhood fascination of building something in my garage and then seeing it go flying over the treetops,” Rundle added. 

Granelli said that flying model airplanes is an excellent hobby for someone to take up in retirement, and an ideal pastime for a grandparent and his or her grandchild. “It’s a wholesome activity and a very social activity,” he said. “You’re not sitting in front of a computer – you’re outside.” •

The Ithaca Radio Control Society holds training night every Monday from 6 p.m. to dusk, June through September, at 1805 Mecklenburg Road. Learn more at, or visit their booth at the Enfield Fair May 7.

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LATAM: A New Horizon For Latin American Air Travel

By: Cody Diamond and Jared Kaplan / Published: May 4, 2016

April 28, 2016 was a monumental day for LAN and TAM Airlines, two major Latin American carriers that are now known as LATAM Airlines. Not only did the company debut its new name on its passenger network, but it also rolled out its new brand and uniforms.

During the upcoming months, many noticeable changes will take place to standardize the LAN and TAM brands into one new “elegant and warm” brand. A total of 40 aircraft will be repainted into the new livery by the end of 2016. The remainder of the fleet will be painted within the next three years.

RELATED: LATAM Unveils its News, Unified Livery

An Airbus A350 wearing the LATAM livery. (Credits: LATAM)

An graphic rendition of an Airbus A350 wearing the LATAM livery. (Credits: LATAM)

The new LATAM logo signifies the new leading airline in Latin America. The only remaining part of the two airlines to be standardized is the frequent flyer program, which will be standardized over the next year to be the LATAM Fidelidade Frequent Flier Program.

LATAM Fidelidade is the Frequent Flier Program of LATAM Airlines. (Credits: LATAM)

LATAM Fidelidade is the Frequent Flier Program of LATAM Airlines. (Credits: LATAM)

From an operational standpoint, several exciting changes are in the works. LATAM’s Senior Vice President of North America and the Caribbean Pablo Chiozza sat down with Airways to discuss some of these changes.

“Passengers will experience smoother connections between LAN and TAM as we integrate our ticketing. All tickets will use the ‘045’ LAN code from now on. With the future of our fleet being in the 787 and the A350, our products will be standardized. All of LAN’s previously existing subsidiaries such as LAN Peru and LAN Argentina will still operate for the purposes of being able to crew our aircraft using pilots from each of the LAN countries networks, however they will form the LATAM network, along with TAM’s operations.

The current products under the LATAM Brand. (Credits: Author)

The current products under the LATAM Brand. (Credits: Author)

It is only necessary to keep the separate airlines as legal entities for crew and state reasons, but this will not be seen by passengers as it will be one fluid brand. This assists in cross fleeting the 767’s. Hopefully as time progresses, the ‘JJ’ code of TAM will be converted to a LATAM code, such as ‘LA’, as will the other LAN subsidiaries. The new airline will use Sabre for its reservations.”

“As for fleet planning, with the 787 and A350, our goal will be to eventually retire all the 767 and 777 fleets. We just completed the retirement of our A330-200 fleet. With these retirements, we can offer a better and unified product to our passengers.”

We also asked Pablo Chiozza about the future of LAN Cargo, which became LATAM Cargo earlier this month. “The future of our cargo will now be mainly in belly space, as we now have the TAM aircraft as an integral part of the LATAM Cargo plan. Of course, we will still have several pure freighters for larger cargo, but the flexibility of passenger aircraft usage will allow for us to lease out some of our cargo aircraft during non-peak times,” Chiozza added. LATAM is currently leasing some of its Boeing 777-200F’s to Southern Air Cargo.

RELATED: HighFlyer Interview with LATAM’s Pablo Chiozza

The first LATAM flight with the new paint scheme was on a Boeing 767-300ER operating an unscheduled special service from Rio de Janeiro to Geneva to collect The Olympic Torch for the Olympic games. Today, the first scheduled service flights took place with the new brand model.

LATAM's first 767-300ER received the water cannon salute before departing to Geneva in its first flight. (Credits: Daniel Carneiro)

LATAM’s first in service aircraft in the new livery, a Boeing 767-300ER, receiving a water cannon salute before departing to Geneva in its first flight. (Credits: Daniel Carneiro)

Fashion wise, the new uniform design was collaborated between the renowned Brazilian fashion designer Pedro Lourenço and a focus group consisting of employees from all parts of the company. The new uniform features the LATAM logo symbolizing South America and the unification of several airlines into one new culture with service to the world.

LATAM New Uniforms. (Credits: LATAM)

LATAM New Uniforms. (Credits: LATAM)

To back the new products and services the company will be launching multiple marketing campaigns in all the countries in which it operates and will integrate them to ease the process throughout the different countries.

With the new paint livery comes increased efficiency and environmental by incorporating a new aircraft painting technology using a new process to apply thinner layers of paint. Overall, this is a plus for the company, helping to cut its carbon footprint.

“For our passengers, this is more than just a new livery and new uniforms, it is the sharing of the dream of flight and connecting people. With many cultures coming together, we will deliver one unified product to our passengers,” Chiozza said.

Editor’s noteOur readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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3 Dual-Class Stocks You Should Own

Bombardier, Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) is having a good year so far in 2016 with its stock up 41% year-to-date through April 29. The Quebec-based airplane manufacturer managed to snag two major orders for its CSeries jets over the past two months—200 potential planes from Delta Air Lines and Air Canada—representing a lifeline of sorts for the company.

But it’s not out of the woods by any means, despite these orders, and that’s got the powers that be in Quebec seeking a bailout from the federal government to ensure Bombardier is able to continue making and selling planes around the world.

Getting in the way of the bailout is the dual-class share structure that gives the Beaudoin family 54% of the votes with just 13% of the equity. Canadians coast to coast would be appalled by such a frivolous use of taxpayer money, especially when it’s done to prop up the lifestyle of a rich Canadian family.

Dual-class share structures get a bad rap, but they shouldn’t.

For every poor performer such as Bombardier, which is down 20% over the past five years on an annualized basis, there’s an equally impressive performance from the likes of Alimentation Couche-Tard or CCL Industries, whose stocks are up 46% and 49%, respectively, over the same period.

In my opinion, the size of the company and its relative lack of scale has more to do with its failure to perform than the Beaudoin family’s voting control. For me, it’s all about the business and its method of making money. Bombardier simply has a flawed business model.

These three dual-class stocks don’t. Here’s why you should consider owning each of them.

With the exception of Alimentation Couche-Tard and CCL Industries, Canadian Tire Corporation Limited (TSX:CTC.A) is easily the best of rest when it comes to stocks trading on the TSX with dual-class structures. Up 19.2% over the past five years through April 29, investors have done well through the long-term stewardship of the Billes family, which controls 61% of its voting shares.

A number of CEOs have served Canadian Tire shareholders in the past decade, but none, in my opinion, has been more influential in its transformation than current CEO Michael Medline, who had a big part to play in its acquisition of Forzani Group in 2011. Without Forzani, Canadian Tire isn’t nearly as big a retail powerhouse, both today and in the future.

Canadian Tire is not only a great dual-class stock to own, but it’s also part of the exclusive $100-club—those companies whose stock trades over the $100 mark. It’s been in the club since 2013; barring a split, look for it to stay in it.

Lassonde Industries Inc. (TSX:LAS.A) is all about juice. Whether it be Apple Eve south of the border or Oasis, Rougemont, Allen’s, Fairlee, Everfresh, and others in Canada, the Lassonde family has been producing juice in this country since 1918. Current CEO Pierre-Paul Lassonde holds 92% of its voting shares, so nothing happens without his say so.

Lassonde stock delivered an annualized total return of 22.9% over the past five years, almost 20 percentage points better than the TSX. It hasn’t had a down year since 2008. Up 8.3% year-to-date through April 29, I expect another year of positive returns for the Quebec company.

Do you still a have a problem with dual-class stocks? If so, my third recommendation should change your mind.

Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (TSX:BAM.A)(NYSE:BAM) is one of those businesses that I’m just fascinated by. Much like Berkshire Hathaway, it’s got a lot of moving parts. I won’t bore you with all the details (it’s always best if you do your own due diligence), but I will say that with more than $225 billion in assets under management with investments in property, renewable energy, infrastructure, and private equity, it’s got its hands in a lot of pies.

How good is its stock?

Since Bruce Flatt’s been CEO (February 2002), it’s delivered a cumulative total return of 924% compared to 178% for the iShares SP TSX Capped Composite Index Fund.

Again, how much do shareholders care about Flatt and company’s ability to exert control when the results have been nothing short of exceptional.

When it comes to dual-class structures, investors only care about good governance in the absence of value. These three have nothing to worry about.

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Fool contributor Will Ashworth has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and BROOKFIELD ASSET MANAGEMENT INC. CL.A LV. Alimentation Couche-Tard is a recommendation of Stock Advisor Canada.

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The Monospinner: world’s mechanically simplest controllable flying machine

The Monospinner in flight.
Fig. 1. The Monospinner in flight.

The Monospinner (Fig.1), developed at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zurich, is the mechanically simplest, controllable, flying machine in existence. It has only one moving part (the rotating propeller), but can still fully control its position in space. The vehicle features no additional actuators or aerodynamic surfaces. 

Our research group aims at pushing the boundaries of flying machines by asking fundamental questions, such as “what is the minimum number of moving parts necessary for controlled flight?” All common flying vehicles require multiple moving parts: conventional quadrocopters, for example, have four moving parts (the four fixed-pitch propellers).  A helicopter’s main rotor requires a complicated swashplate mechanism with many moving parts, and a typical fixed-wing airplane requires one moving part for each of the ailerons, rudder, elevator, and main propulsion. Samara-type vehicles look like maple seeds (or samaras), and rotate while flying. These vehicles typically need two actuators to be controllable in position. Some toys have only one moving part, but are not controllable in the horizontal direction.

We set out to create a vehicle that has only a single moving part. The theoretical basis for this followed from previous work on quadrocopters, where we showed that a quadrocopter can maintain flight despite the complete loss of one, two, or three propellers. To do this, we redefined the definition of “to hover”: now the vehicle may rotate at a constant angular velocity as long as it remains approximately at the same point in space. Of course, the vehicle then has to be controlled near this hover solution, to allow it to track trajectories and reject disturbances.

This is tricky for the Monospinner, as it has only a single input (the thrust force) to control its states (compared to a conventional quadrocopter that has four inputs). We designed a cascaded controller (Fig. 2): the faster inner loop controls the thrust direction, while the slower outer loop controls the vehicle’s acceleration and thereby position. Roughly speaking, the single control input (the thrust magnitude) is decomposed into two parts, the average part of the thrust (calculated by the outer loop) which determines the acceleration of the Monospinner and the deviation from the average thrust (calculated from the inner loop) which controls its orientation.

Cascaded control structure: the outer position controller defines a desired acceleration, where the inner attitude controller defines the vehicle's attitude.
Fig. 2. Cascaded control structure: the outer position controller defines a desired acceleration, where the inner attitude controller defines the vehicle’s attitude.

After the theoretical analysis, we proceeded to build a vehicle. However, there are a lot of uncertainties in the real world: one example is that we do not have a good aerodynamic model of such a complex rotating object. In addition, there are uncertainties such as the mass distribution or the position of the vehicle’s center of mass. We set out to design something that would fly even if we did not know the parameters exactly. We evaluated different designs using Monte Carlo simulations, where we sample different perturbations from the above-mentioned uncertainties and use simulations to test whether our controller would still work. We did this until we found a configuration that works in most situations: the resulting Y-shaped vehicle is shown in Fig. 3 below.

Fig. 3. Monte Carlo simulation results, showing how likely a vehicle is to be controllable (the color scale indicates the likelihood of a crash) as a function of where the vehicle's electronics are placed. The vehicles approximate size and shape are based on existing vehicles. The vehicle has three main components, which are approximately equally massive: the battery, electronics, and the motor/propeller. By fixing the positions of the propeller and the battery as two vertices of an equilateral triangle, a Monte Carlo analysis was conducted for different positions of the electronics in the vicinity of the third triangle vertex.  The final electronics position was chosen as a compromise between low likelihood of failure (as determined by the Monte Carlo simulations) and other considerations (such as ease of mechanical construction). This location is plotted with a red dashed line.
Fig. 3. Monte Carlo simulation results, showing how likely a vehicle is to be controllable (the color scale indicates the likelihood of a crash) as a function of where the vehicle’s electronics are placed. The vehicle’s approximate size and shape are based on existing vehicles.* The vehicle has three main components, which are approximately equally massive: the battery, electronics, and the motor/propeller. By fixing the positions of the propeller and the battery as two vertices of an equilateral triangle, a Monte Carlo analysis was conducted for different positions of the electronics in the vicinity of the third triangle vertex. The final electronics position was chosen as a compromise between low likelihood of failure (as determined by the Monte Carlo simulations) and other considerations (such as ease of mechanical construction). This location is plotted with a red dashed line.

*Link to research

The control strategy only works near hover, where the vehicle spins about 4 revolutions per second. To get the vehicle near the operating angular velocity, we built a passive platform (Fig. 4 below), which has a vertically oriented bearing allowing the Monospinner to rotate freely. The rotation is achieved through the reaction torque of the propeller, and the thrust is slowly ramped up from zero. Once the vehicle is sufficiently near the hover angular velocity, the controller is switched on and the vehicle jumps off the platform. The platform ensures that the take-off condition is near the hover solution for each experiment.  Once we were confident that the vehicle would reliably work from such a controlled starting point, we pushed our luck, and we found out that the system is robust enough to recover after it is thrown into the air like a Frisbee (see the video).

There are still open questions, which we will explore in future work: for example, we plan to refine the control strategy to allow the Monospinnner to recover from a larger range of initial conditions.

The Monospinner resting on the takeoff platform, which allows the vehicle to freely rotate about its axis of rotation, so that the vehicle can take off near its hover angular velocity and orientation. We have since shown that the Monospinner can also be hand-launched, by throwing it like a Frisbee.
Fig. 4. The Monospinner resting on the takeoff platform, which allows the vehicle to freely rotate about its axis of rotation, so that the vehicle can take off near its hover angular velocity and orientation. We have since shown that the Monospinner can also be hand-launched, by throwing it like a Frisbee.

If you liked this article, you may also be interested in:

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Model airplane museum planned for Cumberland Township – Observer

WAYNESBURG – John Brodak’s dream of building a model airplane museum is cleared for takeoff.

Plans construct an addition onto Brodak’s building in Cumberland Township to house the museum for model airplanes received conditional final approval Monday from the Greene County Planning Commission.

The 4,000 square foot addition will be constructed on a commercial building along Park Avenue now occupied by the Brodak Manufacturing and Distribution Co. which produces model airplane kits.

Brodak, the largest manufacturer of model airplane kits, has been planning the museum for several years and first presented plans to the commission in 2011.

To receive approval, Brodak must submit an approved storm water management plan and a maintenance agreement on storm water improvements and receive state approval of the erosion and sedimentation control plan. Brodak said Tuesday he hopes to have the paperwork completed in the next few weeks.

“I want to have (the addition) under roof by the end of August,” he said.

The museum, which will occupy 7,000 square feet, will include artifacts not only of the history of model aviation and but also of aviation in general, Brodak said. Brodak said his intent in constructing the museum is “to preserve the history” of model aviation.

Though there is a model aviation museum in Muncie, Ind., that museum primarily focuses on radio control model airplanes, and not other types, such as control line model aviation, he said.

Brodak Manufacturing currently produces kits for 115 different styles of model airplanes.

In other business, the commission granted preliminary approval to plans by the Lower Ten Mile Joint Sewer Authority to construct a new administration building off Route 1011 in Morgan Township. The authority will demolish its existing building and replace it with a new modular building.

The commissioners accepted the resignation of commission member Francis Minor, who has served on the board since 1996.

It also agreed to ask the county to appoint alternative members to the nine-member commission.

County planner Jeremy Kelly said the commission believes alternate members would be helpful to fill in when regular members have a conflict of interest on a case or are absent. Alternates also could ensure a continuity of knowledge when new regular members are appointed and need time to learn about the commission’s duties or issues it is has addressed, he said.

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