Public hearing on Steamboat airport tonight |

Public hearing on Steamboat airport tonight

Avi Salzman

— Although evidence indicates the idea of closing or altering the Steamboat Springs Airport has been discussed for months, tonight will be the first time the City Council will deal with the topic head on in an open public hearing.

“Clearly people are talking about that in the community,” said George Krawzoff, the city’s transportation director. “What we’d like to have from the council is to find out if they want to have that discussion.”

It is time, it seems, to lay all the cards on the table.

Though the most important of those cards, which has been glanced at furtively for months, is the idea of either closing or changing the use of the airport, the city will also look at hangars, safety concerns and other issues.

City Council members have generally been supportive of maintaining the airport as a general aviation facility, but as the city prepares to make decisions about the construction of new private hangars and the use of the terminal, council members are being consulted on how to proceed.

The airport currently serves private pilots, businesses and emergency-service providers but does not have scheduled commercial service, though the city agreed to build a terminal to hold commercial operators for $2.8 million in 1992. The public is still paying off the more than $5 million in bonds on that terminal, though there has not been commercial service at the airport for six years.

The idea of revisiting the use of the airport was brought up by former City Council President William Martin before a City Council meeting in October, but closure was dismissed as an option at that time.

Martin had proposed bringing back Steamboat’s vintage car races to a race track located at or near the airport, though he says the cars would not necessarily take up runway space. Details of his plans for the land were somewhat vague at the October meeting, though Martin said afterward private land near the airport would more likely be the site of a race track for vintage auto races. Although Steamboat used to host vintage auto races on Mount Werner Circle, they stopped in 1998.

Discussions about the Steamboat Springs Airport have taken on a new urgency in the past two months since Martin’s discussion of a change in its role.

In addition, allegations of safety problems, including potential runway length limitations, at the airport have been raised recently by at least one member of the public involved in aviation. Though the city dismisses the allegations across the board, city officials did deal with safety issues in the packet they prepared for the council for tonight, if only to put them to rest.

“If you’ve got a concern, bring it out and we’ll look at it,” said Councilman Steve Ivancie, who has already met individually with Warren Harner, the man who initially brought up the safety concerns.

Documents also show Airport Manager Matt Grow has inquired with the Federal Aviation Administration into what closing the airport would entail both in terms of economics and logistics.

A letter from the FAA in Denver indicates that if the city sold or changed the airport it would have to pay a portion of the proceeds to the FAA, including 90 percent of money secured from the federal government through grants to the airport.

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