Aiport authority questions loom

City Council, County Commissioners will study options


— The County Commissioners and Steamboat Springs City Council will meet Thursday to decide the future of an airport authority.

If the two government bodies want to form an authority, they will have to answer how it will be funded and how it will operate.

The commissioners and council will look at two different options for forming an authority an airport authority and a rural transportation authority. Either authority would incorporate both the Steamboat Springs Airport and Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

The major differences between the two would be that a rural transportation authority could impose taxes and its board would have to be elected, County Manager Tom Sullivan said.

An airport authority could not ask voters to approve taxes, but it could pull a board from different segments of the community.

For example, it could include a representative from Ski Corp., the lodging community, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, nearby towns and Moffat County.

Unlike a rural transportation authority, an airport authority does not have the power to ask for a sales taxes, visitor benefit tax or a motor vehicle registration tax, but the County Commissioners could ask voters to approve those taxes to go toward funding the authority.

"The whole thing comes down to the type of (board) and funding for both airports," Sullivan said. "It is really about getting a board that would see to sound operational plans for both airports and sound improvement plans for both airports."

At the last meeting, the commissioners and council unanimously agreed to forge ahead to create a regional airport authority and finance improvements to the YVRA terminal.

But Sullivan said the thought of a new terminal at YVRA has been replaced by more remedial measures to fix up what some elected officials see as the first impression many visitors have of Routt County.

Sullivan said the $23 million for the new terminal and another $10 million in expenses for new roads and parking lots was just too much.

At the last joint meeting, the commissioners and council also directed their staff to delve further into agreements for an airport authority and to look for a financial consultant with the costs shared between the city and county.

Not only does the city and county have to decide if they want an authority, they have to decide how that authority is going to be funded.

Right now, the county subsidizes the regional airport by more than $600,000 a year.

The rest of the airport's $4.4 million budget comes from its revenue, Sullivan said.

The city subsidizes the Steamboat Springs Airport to the tune of $100,000 a year and is paying off the $2.8 million loan the city took out in 1992 to build the terminal.

But that figure is expected to decrease after the city finalized an agreement in June with Smartwool, who is renting part of the terminal.

It is also in an agreement to lease 30 acres for hangars, which could bring in as much as $60,000 a year.


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