BEHIND THE HEADLINES

Is an airport authority a good idea?

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Q. Is the airport authority a good idea?

A. I believe that it is. A statutory airport authority could have both the Steamboat Springs Airport and Yampa Valley Regional Airport under single ownership.

The airport authority would be a political subdivision of the state and be governed by a board of commissioners appointed by the Routt County Commissioners and the Steamboat Springs City Council.

This board would be responsible for all oversight, planning and budgeting for both airports. It would have the opportunity to create and implement the vision for all air transportation into the Yampa Valley.

It is the way that we could have representatives from all the entities that benefit from our airports making the decisions about operations and capital planning.

With our airports and air transportation into the valley as their primary focus, they would be able to spend the time necessary to ensure the efficient use of our aviation facilities and quality air service.

Q. How big of a priority is the airport authority for the county?

A. The county has many ongoing projects that are important and determining which ones should be given top priority is always difficult.

Each commissioner dedicates time and effort to the issues he or she feels are critical and we assign staff to work on projects according to their expertise and the time they have available.

We have not identified the staff time that will be necessary to work through the issues related to the formation of an airport authority but will be doing so in the near future.

As City Council President Kathy Connell said at our joint meeting this last week, "the devil will be in the details" as we continue our discussion of the statutory airport authority. It is my personal priority to keep the discussion on those details moving forward.

Q. Does the Steamboat Springs Airport help or hurt a future tax question to fund the airport authority?

A. I believe that if there were to be a future tax question to fund our airports, the voters would rather see that comprehensive planning was occurring through one body that owned both airports.

Our constituents want to see the city and the county working together on projects and infrastructure that are mutually beneficial.

If we are doing that relative to air transportation planning, a tax question will have a better chance of passing.

Q. Why does the airport authority continue to come up before the county commissioners and the City Council? Will it happen again?

A. The idea of an airport authority keeps coming up because we each own an airport.

Prior to my being elected as a commissioner in 1992, the city and the county had already had one discussion about the formation of a statutory airport authority.

I don't think that one got much farther than a commissioner and a City Council member presenting the idea to both bodies.

Then, in 1995 the idea was presented again. An interim board was appointed by both the city and the county and an outside attorney was hired to help us identify the issues and work through the details. Although a list of issues and concerns were identified, time and expertise was not devoted to working through each of them and, in 1996, the city and the county voted to set aside the idea of creating a statutory airport authority.

If we do not form the authority this time, I believe that sometime in the future the idea will once again surface.

Moose Barrows, who served on our interim board in 1995-96 has probably stated it most concisely by saying that in Routt County we should have one airport with two runways that are 20 miles apart. It just makes sense for them to be under one umbrella.

Q. Will the community be more inclined to pass a tax if the two airports are placed under one umbrella organization?

A. I believe so. As I said before, it would show the community that we have truly created a mechanism that allows for singular control, planning and budgeting when it comes to air transportation into Routt County.

We all need to better understand how vital our airports are to the economy of the Yampa Valley. A statutory authority with broad representation could help to do that.

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