Steamboat Springs City Council member Susan Dellinger will ask her colleagues tonight to consider whether Steamboat Springs Airport should be closed.
"I think now is the time" to explore the question, Dellinger said. "That's my request. I think there are a lot of questions surrounding the airport."
The council meets at 5 p.m. at Centennial Hall. Tonight's discussion of the airport's future is not expected to result in a vote on its fate. Instead, Transportation Services Director George Krawzoff is expected to ask the council to consider three avenues for studying the airport's future and then give him some direction on how to proceed.
Dellinger, who also serves on the Yampa Valley Airport Commission, and Krawzoff said the impetus for tonight's discussion is the need to update the Steamboat Springs Airport Master Plan.
The last master plan was completed in 1998 and was based on flights by a commercial aircraft that is no longer in service. The Steamboat Airport no longer sees regularly scheduled commercial traffic.
"A new master plan is needed both for the sake of the airport operating and developing along rational guidelines, and for the sake of the surrounding community understanding what the present and likely future impacts of airport operations will be," Krawzoff said.
The estimated cost of the master plan is $250,000. The Federal Aviation Administration will bear more than half of that, and state government will provide more than $30,000. Dellinger said she thinks that before the city commits state and federal agencies to spend that amount on its behalf, it's time to take a broader look at issues surrounding the airport.
She wants to know whether other council members are willing to spend additional consulting dollars to learn more about the implications of closing the airport. The result would be the consolidation of commercial and general aviation at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, 23 miles west of Steamboat Springs.
Among the questions that might be explored are the possible pluses or minuses of adding more general aviation traffic to the mix of commercial jets at YVRA. The cost of buying out existing hangar leases also would be on the table.
Krawzoff said a consultant who works on airport master plans told the Airport Commission on Feb. 9 that a plan funded by the FAA would be limited strictly to issues related to aviation facilities.
Krawzoff will ask tonight whether the council wants to proceed with the Steamboat Springs Airport Master Plan only, pursue both an airport master plan and a "local alternatives study," or proceed with the local alternatives study and defer the master plan.
Krawzoff estimates the local alternatives study could cost the city between $75,000 and $100,000.
Dellinger said she thinks confronting the question of whether to close Steamboat Springs Airport would help the general aviation community and the Airport Commission better prepare for the future.