Airport authority question looms

Council will hear from consultants at tonight's meeting

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— The City Council and County Commissioners will discuss forming an airport authority and how to fund improvements to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport terminal at tonight's joint meeting.

After working with the Eagle County Airport, Jim Fritze will present financing options to the city and county that could bring in money for needed terminal improvements, yet not taxing Routt County residents, Council President Kathy Connell said.

Fritze, who is currently the Montrose County Attorney, is one of two consultants the two governments have contacted in their efforts to improve the airports.

One of the finance options is the formation of a 63-20 Corporation, which would allow a revenue bond, not taxes, to fund the construction of a new terminal.

"The most pressing (issue is) how to fund a new terminal without going to the taxpayers and taxing them. We desperately need a new terminal out there. (The current one) doesn't meet our needs," Connell said.

But the question with the revenue bond would be whether the airport can prove it can make a profit and pay off the bond.

County Manager Tom Sullivan said that county is subsidizing the regional airport by more than $600,000 a year. The rest of the airport's $4.4 million budget comes from airport revenue. This year, $1.7 million of that budget was spent on capital projects.

Connell is part of a committee comprised of Commissioner Dan Ellison, Councilman Paul Strong, Ski Corp. officials and representatives from the Airport Advisory Committee that have been meeting for the last three months. Tonight, the committee will bring their preliminary findings to the two boards.

The council and commissioners will also hear from Kent Meyers, Ski Corp.'s former vice-president of marketing who also worked with Eagle County, Gunnison County, Mammoth Resort and Telluride in developing better air service.

For Connell, the first step is getting funding for the terminal, increase flights into Hayden and then form an authority.

Ironically, the third step forming an authority was done eight-years ago.

In 1994, the council passed an ordinance and the commissioners signed a resolution that put in place a regional airport authority.

But after negotiations fell through, the County rescinded the resolution.

City Deputy Manager Wendy DuBord said that while an ordinance is still in the books, there is not an active authority to go with it.

"There was an attempt to form an authority, there was an agreement to do that. But it sort of died before it got going," Ellison said.

The climate, however, has changed with the Steamboat Springs Airport losing hope in gaining commercial flight service and focusing more on working with Smartwool to lease its largely unused terminal.

The regional airport also needs an expansion and the county is required by the state to spend its capital on renovating the county building first, Connell said.

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