Investing in airport divides City Council
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs City Council asked itself, “Where’s the money coming from?” Tuesday night after hearing details of plans to expand aircraft storage at the airport, and possibly build a new recreation center.
“I feel like we’re just busting at the seams and everything is too small all at the same time,” Councilwoman Arianthtettner said. “We have a lot of things to think about; a lot of ways to divide that money up — that money we don’t have enough of.”
Stettner and the rest of City Council had just heard the Northwest Colorado Aviators propose that the city consider bonding to build new hangars and expand airport tie-down areas on the runway apron at Steamboat Springs Airport/Bob Adams Field. They also heard Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreation Chris Wilson unveil a feasibility study concerning construction of a new recreation and wellness center that could cost more than $7 million.
Council voted 4-2 with Kevin Bennett and Jim Engelken dissenting and Kathy Connell absent, to direct city staff to look further into options for financing the expansion of general aviation facilities at the airport. Those options could include private or public funding for new hangars.
The Northwest Colorado Aviators are recommending that council bond for more than $900,000 for the first phase of the project. They produced spread sheets that they say demonstrate how the city could show a profit of $1.6 million on the project after 15 years.
“We’re here to make it easy for you to make an informed decision,” NWCA President Gerry Denofsky told City Council. “No land acquisition will be necessary, and we believe it will result in a long-term net revenue increase.”
Councilman Ken Brenner said he realizes that the discussion over the future of the airport has polarized the community, but he has an open mind to researching the project further.
“This is a commitment we made quite a long time ago,” Brenner said. “We’re very heavily invested in it and I’m very tempted to support having staff continue looking into it.”
Councilman Paul Strong said he is a strong supporter of general aviation at the airport and is also in favor of new development there. But he thinks the push should come from the private sector.
“With our current debt structure, I don’t think our constituents would support a bond issue,” Strong said. “Yes, this will make money over time, but I don’t think we have the money now. Let a private organization do it now, and we’ll have ground rent now.”
Engelken said he couldn’t support taking on more debt for improvements at the airport.
“I’m a little less anxious to throw more money at the airport,” Engelken said. “I see a lot of competing interests.”
He suggested that, if council took a $1 million bond to the voters for new hangars and tie-downs at the airport, they would hear a resounding “no.”
Councilman Bud Romberg agreed with Brenner that the city already has an investment in the airport, and there was no reason not to allow the city staff to investigate whether it could find a way to reduce the short-term financial impacts of taking on the project.
Council President Bennett saw it differently.
“You know everyone in the room, and you don’t want to be a downer, you don’t want to be a bummer,” Bennett said. However, he said the new debt taken on by previous city councils from 1987 to 1993 saddled the city with monthly debt service payments of $200,000.
“We’ve paid that every single month for six years,” Bennett said. “This project (the airport and airport terminal) was part of that. I could not in good conscience encourage staff to investigate new debt at the airport — period. It would preclude a great many things in the future that people want.”
Brenner moved to direct staff to spend more time researching the proposal and the motion carried.
— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail email@example.com
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While warm days and nights are fueling strong flows in the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs, the pace of runoff is expected to dip this week.