Green River Star -

By Stephanie Thompson
People Editor 

Airport funding voted down


November 7, 2018

The Sweetwater County Commission will not support funding the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport commercial terminal without a guarantee that it will receive federal grant funding.

During the Commission meeting Tuesday morning, the Commissioners were split on the issue. A motion was made by Randy Wendling to approve a budget resolution request for $133,333 to pay for the schematics of the project, but it almost died for a lack of a second. Chairman Reid West asked if he could second it, but then Commissioner Wally Johnson said he would second the motion so they could vote on it. It was a 3-2 vote against the motion. Commissioners Wendling and West voted in favor, while Commissioners Wally Johnson, Don Van Matre and John Kolb voted against.

Airport Manager Devon Brubaker said he heard the concerns of the board and others about the plan sitting on the shelf and decided to ask for a smaller amount to only cover the design schematics of the project, which won’t have a shelf life.

James Wamsley, Rock Springs-Sweetwater County Joint Powers Airport Board chairman, said the funding would support the future growth of the airport, which he believes is vital to the community.

West said the initial request was much higher at about $711,111, which was to complete the design phase.

Brubaker said the city of Rock Springs already approved a reduced request of $200,000 to cover the entire cost of the schematics, however if the Commissioners approve the $133,333 request, Rock Springs would be reimbursed for the extra it provided.

“I just want to make sure that my position on this is clear,” Johnson said. “My position wasn’t whether I approved of the modification of renovation of the commercial terminal or not. My problem with it is that we’re betting on throwing dollars on the table trying to enhance our position for success relative to the grant application.”

Brubaker said in the short term, that’s the plan, but in the long team the work will need to be done in the future. He said they also need to find out exactly how much the entire project will cost, which as of now are just estimates.

“If the grant application is successful, I have no problem with this whatsoever, whatever the amount of money that would be required for matching funds,” Johnson said. “My problem is the gamble I’m being asked to take to enhance the probability of success for that grant.”

He asked why the airport already has engineers for the project.

Wamsley said federal regulations require the airport to have a firm for planning and one for engineering. TO Engineers out of Cody is the firm for both. He said the airport isn’t jumping the gun.

Johnson then questioned why the airport didn’t pick an engineering company that was in Sweetwater County. Brubaker said there were only three companies in the state that did this type of work: JFC, TO Engineers, Morrison-Maierle Engineers. He said the board chose to go with TO.

“Money should be spent in Sweetwater County, then in the state of Wyoming and then as a last resort out of state of Wyoming,” Johnson said.

Kolb said this project is beyond normal operations and the general public doesn’t know the scope of the project. He said he thinks it’s in the master plan, but no one talked about it.

“You’ve already got an application submitted,” Kolb said. “So that phase is done. I don’t know what this gets us.”

Brubaker said he had to submit the application to meet the Oct. 31 deadline, which is why the city of Rock Springs decided to cover the entire amount to help the airport stand out above other airports applying for the funds.

Kolb said he just doesn’t know what the money will get them and doesn’t have enough answers. He also brought up unrelated issues accusing Brubaker of making derogatory comments about the Commissioners and using the local media to push his plan.

Brubaker denied making any comments and said he didn’t know what Kolb was talking about. Kolb said the courthouse employees have been talking about it.

“I’d appreciate a professional attitude in the future,” Kolb said.

He said Brubaker needs to stop having a war in the newspaper.

Van Matre said he’s always tried to be supportive to the airport board, but he has some problems with what they want to do. He said the Commissioners have a capital projects budget for things like this, but this isn’t following that process.

Wendling asked Brubaker when he knew about the funding. Brubaker said he knew in March that the funding was available, but information on which airports would qualify wasn’t released until June or July, which was after the budget was approved. Kolb said he still could have came to the meeting and gave the Commissioners information about it, instead of waiting. Brubaker said he didn’t even know if the airport would qualify yet. He said they are receiving guidance on the grant every week.

The matter was then opened up for a public hearing, but no comments were made.



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