County to fund fall air service

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Routt County commissioners agreed to pay as much as $52,500 to help bring more fall air service into Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

The airport has an Air-21 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grant provides $500,000 during three years to supplement air service to the area.

The fall service would be between Sept. 10 and Dec. 15 and would be provided by Continental Airlines or Delta Airlines.

For the first year, the county will use $220,000 of the grant, plus a local match of $80,000. Officials already have secured $27,500 from municipalities.

Routt County commissioners agreed to make up the remainder if necessary, but they expressed some concern about a potentially big contribution.

"I am a little concerned about the ... dollars that we're putting in here," County Commissioner Doug Monger said.

The county would have to fund $52,500 for the fall flights only in a worst-case scenario, County Manager Tom Sullivan said.

If planes carry more passengers or if more commitments are secured, that cost will decrease.

Sullivan, along with Janet Fischer, director of airline programs for Steamboat Ski Area, helped secure the grant.

Continental Airlines has given the current proposal to provide service. Continental's flights would come directly from Houston.

County and airport officials are waiting for a proposal from Delta Airlines. Delta's proposal is expected this week. Delta's flights would come directly from Salt Lake City.

For Continental to fly into the airport from its hubs, it needs to have a certain amount of revenue guaranteed, which is $300,000 in its proposal. That proposal provides for four flights a week.

Sullivan said that even in a worst-case scenario, if planes were loaded to only 43 percent, the county would receive about $31,000 in revenue because of land fees, concession revenues and revenues from fees. The county also would receive about $2,000 in sales tax revenues.

That means the county's donation is more along the lines of $19,500.

Compared with a total of $27,500 in donations from the rest of the community, that's a big contribution, Monger said, especially because the fall flights would benefit the entire area.

If more passengers were on the flights, those revenue numbers would increase. Filling planes 60 percent means about $42,000 in revenues, Sullivan said. Also, additional contributions from local communities decrease the county's contribution.

The county's portion of the funding does not have to be paid until 2006, and therefore would be included in the 2006 budget, Sullivan said.

Any final contracts will come back to county commissioners for approval.

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