Our View: Leaving a sweet taste for visitors | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Leaving a sweet taste for visitors

— Vacationers arriving in Steamboat Springs this week for the busy holiday season are sure to be thrilled with the abundance of snow. Let’s hope their experience departing our resort community doesn’t leave a bad taste in their mouths.

A contract issue has left Yampa Valley Regional Airport without its two primary eateries — the HDN Paradise Bar & Grill and Hot Dog’n Paradise. Passengers are left to scrounge for sandwiches at the small gift shop within the airport’s secure area or choose from a selection of breakfast-specific items at Charlie’s ChuckWagon in the main terminal area.

The timing of the contract issue with Craig resident Trini Riley is particularly frustrating. The Fly Steamboat winter air service program kicked into high gear last weekend, and the next two weeks will be some of the busiest — and most important — of the season for the airport and the local economy.

Airport Manager Dave Ruppel says Riley has defaulted on several components of her contract with Routt County, which operates the airport. Ruppel said those issues include making monthly payments and not having the required liability insurance to operate the eateries.

Riley has not responded to several cell phone messages left by the Steamboat Pilot & Today since Thursday. Her listed home phone number has been disconnected.

This isn’t the first time the county has had issues with Riley upholding the terms of her contract. The Routt County Board of Commissioners was close to terminating her contract earlier this year, but Riley came up with her monthly payment before the agreement was severed.

Customer service at Yampa Valley Regional Airport is critical. The airport is often a visitor’s first and last experiences with our community. And as evidenced by the weather of the past couple days, we live in a region where flights are often delayed or canceled. Last impressions are important, and our airport’s lack of a secure-area eatery for departing passengers isn’t the one we want them to leave with.

Make no mistake — the Yampa Valley Regional Airport experience is exponentially better today than at any previous time in its history. Millions of dollars have been spent on airport improvements during the past few years, and ongoing work on Phase 3 of YVRA improvements will bring further enhancements — including a beautiful first-floor restaurant.

Ruppel has hustled to find a substitute eatery operator in Charlie Epp, who runs the existing Charlie’s ChuckWagon. Epp hopes to offer a fuller menu of items at the secure-area food stand by the end of this week. We hope the plan works out, and quickly, because our community can ill afford to let a contract issue negatively impact the travel experiences of our guests during the local economy’s most important time of the year.

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