Steamboat Springs City Council could decide tonight to seek a business partner to share costs and revenues at Steamboat Springs Airport.
At the direction of council, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord is expected to present a draft of a document that would seek proposals from the private sector to take over a portion or all of the operating responsibilities at the city-owned airport.
The draft "request for proposals," or RFP, written by DuBord is deliberately open-ended. That's due in part because council members are uncertain what form a joint venture might take.
Instead of specifying exactly what council seeks, the RFP in its present wording is asking for creative proposals.
DuBord and a committee of residents have been working for several weeks to identify candidates to interview for the vacant position of airport manager. That opening was created in April when former airport manager Brian Feeney resigned to take a position in private business near Chicago.
During DuBord's update on the hiring process in front of City Council May 2, City Council President Kevin Bennett urged his colleagues to use the job opening as a juncture to explore new possibilities in the way the airport is managed.
"It's a great opportunity right now for us to slow that process down," and look at some form of public/private partnership, Bennett said.
He and other council members would like to reduce the amount of money the city must appropriate from the general fund each year to cover the airport operation.
Last year, the city transferred $206,400 from the general fund to cover a shortfall at the airport. The overall airport budget includes almost $400,000 to retire the debt on the largely unused airport terminal.
The city, for several years, has operated as the "fixed base operator" (FBO) at the airport, providing services like fueling to general aviation customers. It is a role filled by a private business person at many busy general aviation airports. The city has contracted with an FBO at other times in the past.
The draft RFP written by DuBord characterizes the city's interest in finding a new partner:
"The city seeks a private sector partner to submit innovative business solutions to enhance services and increase revenues at the airport in an effort to reduce the amount of operating subsidy provided by the city's general fund. The proposal may include FBO operations, full airport operations, hangar development, other business development and lease arrangements."
Word of the city's tentative change of direction has already sparked some interest in the airport.
"I have had several calls from interested individuals and given one a tour of the airport," DuBord wrote in a memo to council.
The number of aircraft based at Steamboat Springs Airport/Bob Adams Field in 1999 was 48. That compares to 40 aircraft in 1990.
Not since Continental Express dropped its regular service to the airport in 1994 has the city had long-term service from a commercial airline.
The only commercial service at the airport during the last six years came during a four-month period in 1997 when Maverick Airlines was in existence.
At one time, commercial operations at the airport represented direct revenues to the city of $300,000 annually.
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