Options for airport beacon investigated

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The beacon for the Moffat County airport has set atop Breeze Mountain for 50 years, and county officials want to keep it there.

However, land issues, access rights, state laws and federal requirements have county officials and airport advisory board members' heads spinning on a project that was supposed to begin next month.

A public meeting was held Wednesday to discuss several obstacles that must be overcome to replace the out-of-date beacon. The main obstacle being access.

Several public meetings were held last July to discuss whether to replace the beacon at its existing location or move it to the airport.

Because of the concerns of several residents in the area about the beacon flashing in their windows all night, the commissioners made the decision not to relocate the

beacon, and instead leave it at the same place.

The beacon sat on top of Breeze Mountain for 50 years with the assumption that it sat on private land. But, in filing necessary paperwork for a $350,000 grant from the

FAA, the county discovered that the beacon sat on Bureau of Land Management land.

To receive a $350,000 grant from the FAA, the county needed to show that it had necessary access to the federal land, and had that access for the next 25 years.

Informal agreements had been made for access to the beacon in the past, but nothing was official.

Now, in order to build a new beacon where the old beacon sits, the county needs something official.

The owner of the land surrounding the beacon has agreed to negotiate a contract with the county for access to the beacon for the next 25 years.

Blaine and Lee Tucker, owners of Mountain Air Spray, even agreed to help pay $500 of the annual bill to the landowner, which officials

said Wednesday has been informally negotiated at $1,000 to $2,000.

Everyone agreed Wednesday that the plan was feasible.

But local governments in Colorado are restricted by the TABOR amendment, which doesn't allow them to negotiate a contract of more than three years, meaning the money would have to be paid up front.

The confusion had some board members saying the best option might be to relocate the beacon on site at the airport.

But Lee Tucker didn't agree.

"As far as the pilots are concerned that's the only logical place for the beacon," Tucker said. "The beacon is way up there. If you stick it down at the airport you'd just as well stick it where the sun doesn't shine."

But board member Pete Nichols didn't see it that way.

"In all my years of flying, I've never been in an airport that didn't have a beacon in the airport," he said.

In the midst of the discussion, the Tuckers stood up to leave, with Blaine Tucker saying Mountain Air Spray's offer still stands as he walked out the door.

Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele, who is airport advisory board liaison for the commissioners, said the issue should be investigated further in the next three weeks before the board meets again.

Although some airport board members believed a beacon could be constructed at the airport in such a way that the lights would flash at an upward angle, not into residents' windows, the county is still investigating the feasibility of keeping the beacon at the same location on Breeze Mountain.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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