Airport Commission defends report

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A draft report from the Yampa Valley Airport Commission shows "overwhelming" evidence that the Steamboat Springs Airport is beneficial to the area, Airport Commission members said Thursday night.

The report has not been released to the public and was not discussed in great detail, but commission members hinted that the results were clear.

Commission member Joe McNasby is heading up the report that will look at economic, social and safety issues of the area's dual-airport system, which involves Yampa Valley Regional Airport and the Steamboat Springs Airport.

McNasby said he used very conservative estimates to evaluate the benefits of the Steamboat Springs Airport and that the final draft analysis shows "drastic" numbers that suggest "the two-airport system works."

Those final numbers and the report will not be available until the city and county joint meeting June 30.

The Airport Commission also emphasized that it is not doing a study about the area's dual-airport system, but rather is doing a report.

"Somewhere the word 'study' got into this, and what (commission members) have done is not a study; it's a report," Airport Commission Chairman Marty Kolonel said.

After the meeting, Kolonel explained that the word "study" implies a group is doing independent research, while a "report" is more of a compilation of the best information that is available to the Airport Commission.

The aim of the report is to gather information to show whether the Steamboat Springs Airport benefits the area in various ways and whether closing it and keeping only Yampa Valley Airport open would be a loss to the community.

"We were not directed to defend (Steamboat Springs Airport) or do anything to close it," Kolonel said.

"All we want is an opportunity to put forward the facts as we know them that led this group to a decision."

Kolonel said recent media attention on the report had made him consider recusing himself from the work or even resigning "to avoid conflicts." But, he said, he has decided to push forward with the report.

City Councilwoman Kathy Connell, who is the city's representative on the Airport Commission, said she hoped the group would not be deterred from completing the report. She congratulated McNasby and Kolonel on the effort that has gone into the report.

Commission member Ulrich Salzgeber echoed Connell's encouragement and said hiring an independent consultant to do the report likely would have cost $45,000 or so.

"This is a good piece," Salzgeber said. "Let's not let the negativity deter us from what our job is."

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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