Walter Scott: Stick to the facts
We would all prefer that Jim Barrows stick to the facts behind the petition to combine the Steamboat Springs Airport and the Yampa Valley Regional Airport. His attempt to vilify and discredit me and other property owners, whose lands are contaminated by the airport Flight Patterns Zone, which covers more than 3,000 acres, is a transparent attempt to disguise the major negative impact issues, liabilities and expenses of the Steamboat Springs Airport.
This petition is not about me or any other individual. By signing the petition, signers say they want voters to hear about the pros and cons of airport consolidation in a factual public discussion and then have the opportunity to vote to approve or deny the plan.
Now for the facts. The petition to combine the Steamboat Springs Airport with the Yampa Valley Regional Airport was not prepared by Mark Freirich. Barrows’ claim that a $17 million outlay of cash would be required upon the closure of the Steamboat Springs Airport is not true. This false claim and others like it are the very reasons we need to complete the Steamboat Springs Airport audit approved by the City Council on March 7, 2006, with an appropriation not to exceed $100,000 for its completion.
The audit must be performed by a qualified, impartial audit group, without the constraints of a controlling scope of work limitation so that the public can rely on true statements and then make their own decisions at the polls. The commissioning of the airport audit is an unquestioned fiduciary responsibility of the City Council alone, which cannot be assigned to any committee that is not made up of duly elected City Council members. In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, the audit firm should be selected from Colorado members of the Government Audit Quality Control Institute. A comprehensive audit from one of these member firms will include full disclosures of all FAA contracts and will take approximately 90 days to complete. It is not in the public interest to delay this report to the public any longer, as its findings will be vitally important in determining future airport land use and expenditures.
Combining the two airports prior to Sept. 30, 2007, could be accomplished with funding from the FAA. The Airport Compliance Handbook states that the development costs for the new airport in excess of the value of the existing land and facilities at the old airport would be eligible for Airport Improvement Program assistance to accomplish combining the airports and that FAA grant agreements are terminated at the old airport. After Sept. 30, 2007, the FAA and the Bush administration have stated that there will be no Airport Improvement Program Funds for private general aviation airports.
I remind Mr. Barrows that the “essential element of commerce and transportation” is at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport. YVRA provides more that 97 percent of the economic impact to the community. The Steamboat Springs Airport provides less than 3 percent of the economic impact to the area and serves less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the population. “Greedy” residential and affordable housing developers are not the issue. The question is, “should taxpayers subsidize an airport with all its liabilities to accommodate 90 locally based pilots?”
The formation of the Airport Steering Committee was precipitated by a proposal to City Council to greatly expand the airport, which according to the Steamboat Springs Airport Capital Improvement Budget will require expenditures of more than $12 million from 2007 through 2010. The Airport Steering Committee, also according to the City Council, is to commission its own audit of income and expense to determine how much taxpayers are subsidizing the airport and find potential alternative land uses. We are hopeful voters will have a full audit rather than a superficial review of Airport financial information before they vote. What is needed is to hire a credible, experienced audit firm immediately with results to be provided to the community within 90 days.
I believe in trusting the voters. Let the people decide — it’s their money and their community.
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Though the city of Steamboat Springs saw a slight decline in 2020 sales tax revenue as COVID-19 hit Routt County, the city is expected to catch up to its 2019 revenues.