City Council gives support to Hayden airport grant plan

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The Craig City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to support Routt County in its bid to get grant money that would bring more competition to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Routt County, in partnership with Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Moffat County and Craig is seeking a grant that would help subsidize another airline if it offered flights out of the Hayden airport.

Currently, United Airlines is the only carrier out of the airport and Routt County guarantees a number of paid seats on each flight to keep the service. They hope to set up a similar arrangement with Continental Airlines.

The plan would increase competition, hopefully decreasing costs, City Manager Jim Ferree said.

"Our experience has been when we had more competition, rates were more reasonable," he said.

The grant is part of a Small Community Air Service Development pilot program through the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Legislature appropriated $20 million for the federal fiscal year, which would be given to up to 40 airports, but no more than four per state.

The grant, if obtained, would enhance year-round service, with an emphasis on summer and fall services.

That would benefit tourism in Moffat County, Ferree said.

"I do think it will enhance our services to tourists and hunters, and businesses and industry as well," he said.

A local match would be required if Routt County gets a grant, but at this point it is not known what that amount will be.

It won't be required until the city's 2003 budget cycle.

"Obviously we haven't had time to figure out who's going to come up with what," Ferree said.

The deadline for the grant application is April 22.

Routt County made no request for funds at this time, but Ferree warned the

City Council that it could be coming.

"I like the idea myself," Councilor Tom Gilchrist said. "If we're going to partially finance it, we need to evaluate our cost to benefit analysis."

Studies would be done, Ferree said, to determine how another airline would affect rates before and funds are invested.

The council will offer a letter supporting the plan.

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