Terminal expansion on track

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The Yampa Valley Airport Commission unanimously recommended approval of a plan Thursday that will begin to decrease Yampa Valley Regional Airport's dependence on county sales taxes even as the second phase of a planned terminal expansion goes forward. The plan goes to the Routt County Board of Commissioners next week.

Routt County Finance Director Dan Strnad told the airport commissioners that YVRA typically has operated at a loss in the range of $300,000 to $450,000. The loss has been offset with monies from the general fund and the county's sales tax. Combined, the funds represent almost 20 percent of the sales tax revenues.

Now, Strand said, the county commissioners have challenged county staff to shave the sales tax contribution to 14 percent next year and 12 percent in 2006.

The difference will be made up by projected revenue increases at YVRA, County Manager Tom Sullivan said. The success of new ski season flights on Delta Airlines and a federal grant that assures summer and fall jet service from Houston on Continental for the next three years hold the promise of more revenues, Sullivan said.

The terminal expansion should make airport concessions more attractive and should result in a modest growth in income, he added.

For 2005, 123,972 enplanements (passengers boarding departing flights) are anticipated. That figure represents a 9.1 percent increase from 2004 and equates to 10,342 passengers. The projected enplanements also assume the flights will be slightly less full -- about 67.13 percent (down about .4 percent). The landing fees airlines pay at the airport will increase 3 percent in 2005 to $2.62 per 1,000 pounds of landed weight.

Sullivan said concerns that the county would not be able to finance the second phase of the terminal expansion in 2005 at the same time it plans to borrow for a new justice center, recently were eased by some creative financing. He said Strnad, working with two private consultants, came up with a plan that will allow the county to borrow $6 million toward the total terminal expansion cost of $23 million. Instead of repaying the loan during seven years, the term of the loan will be 20 years. And the due date for the first payment will be pushed back a year.

The plan allows the county to preserve the cash flow it needs for other areas of the budget, Sullivan said. More room in county cash flow has been created by a commitment from the Steamboat resort community to contribute $100,000 per year for five years to the terminal project.

The terminal expansion will increase the size of the waiting room for outbound passengers as well as the parking apron for the largest jets that land at the airport -- Boeing 757s.

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