City sees money in hangars

Steamboat airport to focus on private business

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— The Steamboat Springs airport is not going to get commercial air service anytime soon, city officials say. With that in mind, the city is doing its best to turn the airport into a slightly more profitable enterprise and enhance general aviation services for private planes.

The Steamboat Springs City Council decided this week to allow Dunn Properties to lease 25 to 30 acres for hangar sites just north of the Steamboat Springs Airport.

The land on which the hangars will be placed is below the surrounding ground level by up to 30 to 40 feet in some places, meaning the developer will have to do a lot of infilling to make the site developable. The hangars will allow the airport to make money from ground leases and the sale of gasoline to planes from its Fixed Base Operating fueling operations.

The ground lease could bring in $10,890 per year through leasing based on the potential for one cent of leasing charges per square foot, Airport Manager Matt Gro said.

In addition, the airport has too few hangar spots for people to park their airplanes, especially in the winter when airplanes are left to collect ice by the side of the runway. The new hangar spots will likely help fill that need.

The ordinance to approve the lease needs to be read one more time by City Council before it is adopted.

Since losing airline service in 1995, Steamboat Springs Airport has been losing $500,000 per year in operations and debt service, Grow said. In order to crawl its way back out of that hole the city has decided to allow for the construction of hangar space, at least for the time being.

"I'm pleased a private entity is willing to come forward and build these hangars without the city having to assume any further burden or risk," said Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner.

Two City Council members, including Council President Kevin Bennett, spoke out against the proposal.

Bennett said he didn't think it was a good policy decision for the city to continue to try to "grow its way out" of problems at the airport.

He said the decision to lease hangar space was just another long-term commitment at the airport and another decision like the one to build a now-empty terminal in 1992 that could come back to haunt the city. With no hope of getting commercial air service back, the city has also decided to relinquish its FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) part 139 certificate, which allows it to operate commercial service at the airport. The city meets the FAR standards right now, but with potential new requirements for the certificate coming down the pipe the certificate could cost the city a lot more time and money, Stettner said.

The city will keep the level of safety and performance it currently maintains, but did not want to have to adhere to increased standards designed for commercial airports when it does not plan to get commercial service.

Stettner said the city would be better off relinquishing the certificate than having it taken away for failing to meet the stringent requirements.

The city will be able to re-apply for a certificate if needed and could potentially obtain it within two months.

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