Green River Star -

Our View: Airport request should be approved

 

September 26, 2018



We are hoping the Sweetwater County Commission will reconsider Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport General Manager Devon Brubaker’s request for $711,111 to fund the design phase of the commercial terminal project.

We know making a decision like this is difficult and we appreciate the commissioners being willing to ask tough questions. However, sometimes it’s not what is being asked, but how it is being asked.

During the Rock Springs City Council meeting last Tuesday evening, Brubaker was greeted differently than what he was at the Commissioners meeting.

Even though the presentations by Brubaker were slightly different, so was the response. While the RS City Council was supportive, the Commission was apprehensive. This left us wondering what happened between the last commission meeting and this one. Did the Commissioners receive emails, phone calls or letters against the project? If so, why wasn’t it brought up during the meeting?

One area to note is at the Commissioners meeting, during the public comment portion of the meeting no comments were made. Usually, if someone really has an issue or is against something, they show up and voice concerns. But no one did.

Later that evening, the RS City Council unanimously approved the $355,556 request. Yes. They asked questions, but they weren’t pointed or argumentative. In fact, the Council praised him on how thorough his presentation was and how prepared he always is when giving presentations.

“If we as a governing body are serious about economic development, diversifying this economy and having the opportunity to invite or ask businesses and companies to relocate here we need have to have a solid infrastructure in place.... RS Mayor Carl Demshar said at the meeting. “One of the main pieces of that infrastructure is air service.”

With all of this explained. Lets address the real issue. Why should the county support this project?

We agree with Demshar and the RS City Council on this one. Most elected officials in the county are talking about looking for ways to improve this county’s economy. As Demshar said in the meeting “It’s incumbent upon us to validate what we preach.”

Improving the airport’s commercial terminal could help out with this. It would be another advantage that other communities wouldn’t have.

Of course, this investment doesn’t come without risks.

Yes. We have seen expensive plans sitting on the shelves, but as far as we are aware none of those plans have been from the airport.

We need to look at which entity is making the proposal and see if they have a proven track record. With the recent hanger upgrade, the airport was able to do so with little cost to taxpayers, it came in at about $30,000 and that was due to an unforeseen septic system issue.

The way Brubaker wants the design phase to move forward seems to make sense. It’s well thought out and the engineering firm is on board. The commercial terminal will need to be upgraded eventually because it already has a long list of upgrades it needs to have done, including undersized security and gate, poorly configured baggage claim and building life safety issues. These upgrades have been part of the six-year plan. This would just move the project up a couple of years and possibly increase the funding the county can receive to complete it.

Brubaker estimated the renovation and expansion project for the commercial terminal at the airport could cost between $10-$14 million and could take three-to-four years to complete.

With supplementary AIP funding the FAA would pay $9,843,750, the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s share would be $393,750 and locally it would be $3,762,500, for a total of $14 million. These numbers are assuming they receive funding at 75 percent, but Brubaker is hoping that number could go as high as 95 percent of the funding, which would change the numbers.

Without the funding, the FAA would pay $3 million WyDOT would pay $4.5 million, and local would pay $6.5 million for a total of $14 million.

It all comes down to whether or not the Commissioners want to take the risk. It’s not a guarantee, but with $1 billion being set aside this year and the possibility of an additional $5 billion being set aside by Congress for the next five years, it seems we may actually have a real shot at obtaining that money. Without the Commissioners on board, the airport probably won’t get the funding that could save this county millions down the road.

 

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